NEWS
17/02/2021 12:35 GMT | Updated 17/02/2021 15:36 GMT

People Are Being Offered Jabs Because The NHS Has Got Their Heights Extremely Wrong

One person reported having their height recorded as 6.2cm instead of 6ft 2ins, giving them a Body Mass Index of 28,000.

Photo by Karwai Tang/Getty Images
A care worker receives the Oxford-AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine in Borehamwood.

A man was offered a Covid jab because the NHS had recorded his height as 6cm, meaning he was classified as morbidly obese.

A similar mix-up saw a woman wrongly offered a flu vaccine because she was thought to be 57cm tall instead of 5ft 7ins, while others have also had heights of less than a metre entered in their official records. 

It came to light when journalist Liam Thorp, 32, tweeted last week that he had been offered his first coronavirus vaccine ahead of schedule, and couldn’t work out why.

“I am really confused why I would be offered at this stage when many more vulnerable or at risk groups haven’t been,” the political editor of the Liverpool Echo wrote. 

The confusion cleared up when he rang his GP and discovered his height had been entered as 6.2cm rather than 6ft 2ins, “giving me a BMI of 28,000”. 

“I’ve put on a few pounds in lockdown but not that many,” he posted in an update on Wednesday morning. 

“When I told my mum I had been classed in the clinically obese category, she said: ‘Well perhaps this is the wake-up call you need.’”

Writing in the Liverpool Echo, Thorp said he had booked an appointment immediately after he received the text inviting him get the jab. “But the more I thought about it and spoke to others, the more I felt uneasy about the situation, with so many more vulnerable groups yet to be offered a jab,” he said.

“So I rang my GP to ask if there had been a mistake and was told that I had been placed into Group 6 of the priority list because of my weight. This led to some serious soul-searching and a quickly revised schedule for Pancake Day (I opted for four instead of five).”

In what he described as “one of the more bizarre phone calls of my life”, he was told his details had been put into the system incorrectly when he first registered a year ago. 

“The man from the surgery took a sharp intake of breath and tried to remain composed as he informed me that rather than having my height registered as six foot two, it had been put into the system as 6.2 centimetres.

“If I had been less stunned, I would have asked why no one was more concerned that a man of these remarkable dimensions was slithering around south Liverpool.”

He was then told the mistake had been corrected and he would not be due for a jab in the near future, news which Thorp greeted with “relief”. 

His Twitter thread had some people claiming they were “crying” with laughter and that it was “the single best tweet of the entire pandemic”.

Others chimed in with similar experiences, including one person who said she had been invited for the seasonal flu jab a few weeks ago because her height had been recorded as 57cm rather than 5ft 7ins. 

Writer and performer Natasha Hodgson only realised the mix-up when she turned up to receive the jab. “The nurse was brilliant and hilarious about it – she got up my records immediately when it was clear I was not, as was recorded on my records, currently morbidly obese,” she told HuffPost UK.

″[She] scanned my file and then burst out laughing: ‘According to this, you are 57cm tall. You’re a bowling ball!’”

The mistake was corrected immediately and Hodgson was not given the flu jab. “Obviously it’s good that they’re trying to push people in high-risk groups to get seasonal jabs, but yes, it looks like it’s not quite a perfect system,” she continued. 

“To be honest, if I’m 57cm tall and 9 and a half stone, I’m amazed they only want to talk to me about my flu potential.” 

Another person told HuffPost UK she had received an invitation to receive the Covid-19 vaccine on Monday because her BMI had been put down as 77 – three times what doctors consider a healthy weight.

"[My GP] was completely unsure how that happened, he says it was an error and that someone just entered it wrong. It makes sense now though as the NHS have been chasing me a lot to get my flu jab!” said town planner Lois-May Chapman.

“The doctor also despite everything being cleared up now with my BMI and myself falling in a healthy weight really encouraged me to get the jab and just count myself and very lucky.”

She added she was “a bit on the fence” about whether to take up the offer. “I’m tempted to,” she admitted.

“I feel bad if I do but my nan is quite unwell so anything I can do to prevent that from getting worse would be good.”

On Sunday the government confirmed more than 15m of the most vulnerable people in the UK have now had a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine.

Those next in line to receive the jab include all those aged between 50 and 70, as well as those aged between 16 and 64 with underlying health conditions which puts them at higher risk of serious disease and death.

Boris Johnson has set a target of May to give the first jabs to these people, who are in the remaining priority groups five to nine, as set out by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

But given the rapid pace of the vaccine rollout so far, this seems somewhat pessimistic. Here’s why the statistics suggest that the UK could in fact vaccinate all those aged over 50 and all the most vulnerable by early April – well ahead of target.