A quarter of coronavirus admissions to hospital are people under the age of 55, the head of NHS England has said.
Sir Simon Stevens told MPs on Monday the virus was spreading out of control across much of the country, with worrying consequences for hospitals.
“In London perhaps one in 30 people has the coronavirus, in parts of London it may be twice that number. In Merseyside in just the last week there has been a further 50% increase in the number of Covid hospitalisations,” he said.
“It’s worth remembering that this affects all ages – a quarter of the Covid admissions to hospital right now are for people aged under 55.”
Officials later confirmed that for the week commencing 28 December, 3,326 under-55s were admitted to hospitals in England, out of 13,530 overall admissions.
Stevens’ comments came as data showed the youngest person with no known underlying conditions whose death from Covid-19 was reported in the last 24 hours was aged 26.
The NHS England chief, addressing the public accounts committee about the UK’s vaccine programme, also revealed more than 370,000 people in England had received two doses of a Covid vaccine, despite ministers previously saying first doses would be prioritised.
“There were some second jabs, where that was a clinical decision to do so given that last week was just a few days after the changed advice from the JCVI [Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation] and chief medical officers,” Stevens said.
Localised vaccine data – crucial to ensure the vaccines are being evenly spread around the country – will be sent out over the next week to 10 days, Stevens said.
Kate Bingham, who recently stood down from her position as head of the vaccines taskforce, told the same committee she was the victim of “politically motivated” attacks. She had faced criticism over a £670,000 contract for public relations advice and was also forced to deny claims she shared commercially sensitive information with investors.
Bingham, who is married to the minister Jesse Norman, said she knew Boris Johnson when they were both undergraduates at Oxford University but dismissed allegations of cronyism. She said the taskforce could have been more open about its work.
“I just don’t think we have handled that very well. So if I had my time again I would be more insistent that we did cross-party briefings – because those didn’t happen – and that anybody who wants to know what it was that we were doing or how we were doing it or wanted to kick the tyres, within Westminster, should be free to do so,” she said.