TWO-thirds of patients being admitted to hospital with Covid in Scotland are now under 65, as vaccinations continue to curb illness and death in older people.

Figures obtained by The Herald show that younger patients, aged 44 and under, also accounted for more than half of admissions to intensive care by the start of this month.

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Previously, the average age of a Covid ICU patient was 60.

It is understood that under-65s have made up the majority of overall hospital admissions for the disease since the beginning of March.

HeraldScotland: Over 65s - and over-85s in particular - have previously had the highest rates of admission for Covid (Source: Public Health Scotland data for pandemic to date, updated weekly)Over 65s - and over-85s in particular - have previously had the highest rates of admission for Covid (Source: Public Health Scotland data for pandemic to date, updated weekly)

Professor Jason Leitch, Scotland’s national clinical director, said: “It’s encouraging but, of course, that’s not much consolation if you’re 58 and you’re in hospital just now.

“It’s still a horrible disease and if you need a hospital admission for it then you have become quite sick. That’s why vaccination is so important.

“The people who are going in are surviving and getting out with the disease.

"Fewer people are going to intensive care, and fewer people are dying.

“So those going in are doing better, partly because they’re younger because vaccination is dealing with the elderly, and partly because we’ve got better therapeutics.

“Survival once you’re in hospital is better than it was a year ago.”

HeraldScotland: Intensive care admissions for Covid have been dominated previously by those in the 65-74 age groupIntensive care admissions for Covid have been dominated previously by those in the 65-74 age group

In the week to March 30, there were 86 admissions for patients under 65 compared to 46 for those aged 65 and older.

The figures, from Public Health Scotland, also show that Covid admissions among patients aged 20 to 44 are now equal to those among the over-75s – with 33 in each age group.

HeraldScotland: Total hospital admissions for Covid have been falling rapidly, and were averaging just under 21 per day by April 3Total hospital admissions for Covid have been falling rapidly, and were averaging just under 21 per day by April 3

In intensive care, there were seven admissions for patients aged 15 to 44 in the week ending April 4, compared to five in the 45-64 category, and just one for patients aged 65 to 74.

None were older.

HeraldScotland: Professor Jason Leitch Professor Jason Leitch

It comes against an 89 per cent decline in overall hospitalisations for Covid, from a peak of 199 per day in January to 21 per day by the start of April.

Prof Leitch said some health boards had already started inoculating healthy under-50s against the virus if they had supplies, and others would start “as soon as they can”.

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Lower than expected deliveries of the AstraZeneca vaccine from India mean that second doses have had to be prioritised, with four times as many people in Scotland getting a second dose on Wednesday – 21,137 – compared to the 4,899 who received their first jag.

This took the total number of second doses administered in Scotland past the half a million mark for the first time.

HeraldScotland: Data presented by the JCVI, and developed by the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication at Cambridge University shows that, at low prevalence, the risk from the vaccine is higher than the benefit in terms of preventing an ICU admission - although at very low ratesData presented by the JCVI, and developed by the Winton Centre for Risk and Evidence Communication at Cambridge University shows that, at low prevalence, the risk from the vaccine is higher than the benefit in terms of preventing an ICU admission - although at very low rates

HeraldScotland: The risk profile is different when virus prevalence is higher, which is why European regulators have not recommended stopping use of the Oxford-AZ vaccine in any age groupThe risk profile is different when virus prevalence is higher, which is why European regulators have not recommended stopping use of the Oxford-AZ vaccine in any age group

It comes after the UK Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation recommended healthy under-30s should not be given the AstraZeneca vaccine due to a very small risk of rare blood clots, which slightly outweighs the benefits for this age group.

An analysis found that, when prevalence of the virus is low, the vaccination was slightly more likely to cause serious harm in 20-29-year-olds than prevent an admission to intensive care with Covid, at a rate of 1.1 versus 0.8 cases per 100,000 over a 16-week period.

Out of the 20 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine given in the UK, regulators have recorded 79 cases of rare blood clots occurring in conjunction with a low platelet count.

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There have been 19 deaths, including three in under-30s, although a causal link has not been definitively proven.

Prof Leitch said he did not know exactly how many cases had occurred in Scotland, but stressed it was “vanishingly rare”.

Anyone who experiences possible side-effects from the AstraZeneca jag such as chest pain, blurred vision or difficulty breathing should seek medical help immediately, said Prof Leitch, but stressed there was “considerably more risk” for most people from Covid.

HeraldScotland: Neil AstlesNeil Astles

It comes as the family of the UK’s first named clot victim, Neil Astles – a 59-year-old solicitor from Cheshire who was vaccinated on March 17 and died on Easter Sunday – urged people not to be put off.

His sister, Dr Alison Astles, said she was “extraordinarily angry” at the unfairness of her brother’s death, but added: “This is a deeply rare event and he’s just been very unlucky.

"For the good of the population, we will save more lives if people do go ahead and have the vaccine.”