While many young people are celebrating the return of live music and nightclubs, an increasing number of those under 30 are ending up in ICU. Younger people are not yet fully vaccinated and are more likely to attend crowded events, creating a perfect storm for rising infections.
Doctors have urged young people to get the vaccine and not ‘suffer unnecessarily’ as the health service braces for the impact ending restrictions will have on case rates.
The importance of vaccines
Currently, one in three 18- to 29-year-olds have not yet had their first dose of the vaccine. Under 30s who do not have any underlying health conditions only became eligible for the vaccine in June, but these figures still suggest some people are not seeking out their first vaccine appointment.
Dr Samantha Batt-Rawden, senior intensive care registrar, said the patients they are seeing are ‘getting younger and younger’.
‘We are seeing patients in their 30s, or even in their 20s, who are fit and have no other medical problems on ICUs. As an ICU doctor I am begging you to have the vaccine. Please don’t let not having the jab become the biggest mistake of your life.’
Certain policies that have recently come into effect have been nudging people towards getting vaccines. Some countries only allow those who are fully vaccinated to enter – this ruling has motivated some people who were previously on the fence about getting vaccinated to actually do so.
As of September, only those who have been double-jabbed will be able to enter nightclubs. This is not coming into effect yet as young people have not yet had the opportunity to be fully vaccinated.
This limit on nightclub access has been met with harsh criticism. Some argue that this changes the vaccine from something optional to something mandatory if you wish to engage with certain parts of society. Nightclub owners have also deemed the ruling unfair, stating that customers will simply go elsewhere to continue the exact same activities and remain just as much at risk as they would be in a club – if not more – without the need for a passport.
Considered the forgotten side effect of Covid-19, Long Covid is something we are only just beginning to truly grasp the scope of. We have been so focused on lockdowns and deaths as a metric to judge the severity of the situation that Long Covid has been sidelined. Some people have now been dealing with Long Covid for as long as the pandemic has been around and it seems that the symptoms will continue to linger for a while yet.
Heather Campbell, a 23-year-old newly graduated nurse, spoke to the BBC about her experience with Long Covid. She stated ‘I don’t feel 23 anymore, I feel so much older’ and urged other young people to continue treating the virus with as much caution as possible.
Young people are less likely to suffer from Long Covid, but it still poses a significant risk:
‘Analysis of several studies and health record databases by King’s College London suggested 1-2% of people in their 20s who had the virus would develop long Covid, compared with 5% of people in their 60s.’ Although this may seem like a small percentage, it is still a large number of people out of 100,000 cases per day.
As we worry about the rising number of young people in ICU it is important that we don’t lose sight of the vast number of young people who may not end up in the ICU but will end up dealing with symptoms of Long Covid for months or years to come.
End of restrictions
Cases may be going down on paper, but the effects of lifting restrictions are not yet reflected in the figures. It has only been just over a week since restrictions were fully lifted, so it is too soon to tell what the impacts of that will be. Given these increased numbers of young people in ICU, it is likely the numbers will go up once you add things like unrestricted nightclubs into the equation.
Young people are also more likely to be working in places such as bars, restaurants, retail and other customer-facing roles, meaning that they will be further impacted by the end of restrictions.
Just because young people are at a lower risk of dying from Covid-19 than older demographics, this does not mean the virus ceases to pose a threat to them. In fact, it has recently become apparent that young people are just as much at risk of suffering organ damage from Covid-19 as those over 50. Regardless of the risk the virus poses to the individual, otherwise healthy people are also just as capable of passing on the virus to other more vulnerable people around them. It is important that we continue to care for those around us and make socially responsible choices wherever possible.
The number of young people in ICU is rising, and it is highly possible that it will continue to do so as we see the impacts of ending restrictions.
Throughout the pandemic, it has been easy to focus on one significant metric at a time – the number of deaths, lockdown durations, vaccination statistics, the number of people in hospital, the number of long covid sufferers. Each of these is only a part of the picture. Going forward, it is vital that we take a wider view of all these different facets of the pandemic. Future government decisions should take all of these aspects into account.
About the Author: Leo Hynett
Leo Hynett is a contributing Features Writer, with a particular interest in Culture, the Arts and LGBTQ+ Politics.
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