Dr Keith Reid on the long-term effects of Covid-19 on younger people
Younger adults are at "significant risk" from the long-term effects of coronavirus if they have not been vaccinated, a leading public health expert has told ITV News.
Dr Keith Reid, executive director of public health at Swansea Bay University Health Board, said long Covid could affect as many as one in nine people aged 17-24.
The most common long Covid symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, muscle ache and difficulty concentrating, with nearly a million people in the UK thought to be affected.
But despite the warnings, health officials in Wales are seeing a lower vaccine uptake in younger adults - particularly those under 30.
Recent figures show that one in four people in Wales aged 18-39 have not yet had a vaccine.
While young adults are less likely to get seriously ill if they test positive for Covid-19, figures show that around one in 10 people aged 18-49 go on to develop long-term symptoms after having the virus, regardless of how unwell they were initially.
Furthermore, around one in nine people aged 17-24 and one in six people aged 25-34 still report symptoms 12 weeks after testing positive.
"We're encouraging young adults to come forward and get vaccinated," Dr Reid told ITV News.
"Sometimes it may be because they feel that if they get Covid it's not going to affect them too badly. We suggest that's maybe not correct.
"There is a significant risk of young adults who get Covid having long Covid - so not just a bad cold or a case of the flu, but symptoms lasting for several weeks; sometimes several months. And that might affect as many as one in nine people around aged 24.
"We're seeing really high levels of infection in under-29-year-olds in particular. That's extending down into teenagers - they're essentially driving the number of cases in the Swansea Bay region.
"The concern there is not just about the impact of infection on that group, but those individuals then taking it home and then there's infection of older adults, and perhaps more vulnerable adults through household transmission.
"We know that the Delta variant is much more effective at transmitting through those household settings. So we're really asking young people to get a vaccination to protect themselves, but also to protect those around them. It's really important that they do take up that offer of vaccination."
Dr Reid said one factor could be that young people are struggling to attend their appointments, but said this is solved by going to a drop-in centre.
"All health boards in Wales are now offering various drop-in vaccinations, offering the Pfizer vaccine for the younger age groups," he said.
"So check locally with your health board - you'll find a drop-in centre available to you."
At least three-quarters of adults in Wales have now received two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, making it the first UK nation to reach this milestone.
In total, more than 90.3% of all adults across Wales have had their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine.
However, Dr Reid warned people not to become complacent, saying that coronavirus is still "very much out there".
He added: "People need to be very careful, and I think that's reflected in the Welsh Government approach, which is much more cautious than the approach across the border in England.
"You need to use masks in indoor settings, you need to maintain a physical distance in indoor settings, and wash your hands regularly. And, if possible, meet up outdoors. The risk outdoors is much, much lower, and that's reflected in the relative restrictions in Wales.
"But meeting up indoors - folk need to be very, very careful. And unfortunately that's not the regime that's in place in England any more. So I think that's going to drive up cases significantly further in England."