When I received a text saying it was time for my first Covid-19 vaccine I was really surprised – but what came next was frankly surreal.

I’m 32 years old with no underlying health conditions, and while I could be described as on the chunky side, I wouldn’t have thought of myself as clinically obese (even after lockdown). So I was not expecting to be invited for a vaccine any time soon.

As political editor for the Liverpool Echo, where this article first appeared, I report on the Covid situation in Liverpool and England every day, so I’m well aware of how far back in the queue I rightly should be.

I was under the impression that when offered a vaccine you should always accept, so I booked an appointment straight away. 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.

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).

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But the call had obviously got some questions being asked locally and the next morning I received a call back from my GP surgery. What followed was one of the more bizarre phone calls of my life. A nervous sounding chap on the line began quietly explaining to me that there had been a mix-up in offering me a vaccine at this stage.

He said unfortunately my details had been put into the system incorrectly when I had registered with the GP just a year ago. He was really polite and very apologetic but said I was in fact not due to get my vaccine anytime soon.

To be honest I was quite relieved as had felt strange about being invited ahead of so many other more vulnerable people. But obviously I had to know more about the mix-up that had led to this moment.

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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 6ft 2in, it had been put into the system as 6.2 centimetres.

I’m not sure how he kept it together when he told me that this, combined with my weight, had given me a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 28,000. For reference, a BMI of 40 or more is considered morbidly obese – so I’m not sure what this would have made me.

The man’s nervous tone cracked into a laugh when I joked about putting on weight and losing a significant amount of height during the lockdown. 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.

But he was very apologetic and really nice and I think he was just relieved that I found it so funny.

Obviously I had to share what has just happened on Twitter, and things went a bit crazy. It wasn’t long before I was being repeatedly described as the obese pancake man – in honour of my new found physique. I also shared a humorous interaction I had with my no-nonsense mother from the night before.

Having told her that I’d been placed into the morbidly obese category by the GP, she didn’t bat an eyelid and instead texted back to say this was perhaps the ‘wake-up call that I needed’. Mums always know best.

The tweet has so far had close to 100,000 likes and 11,000 retweets (far more than anything I’ve received for any actual journalism), and I’m thoroughly enjoying being labelled a Fat Tom Thumb.

But there actually is a potential issue that this turn of events has brought to life.

The vaccine roll-out is going incredibly well in the UK – and in Liverpool where I live, NHS workers and volunteers are working round the clock to get as many people offered a jab as possible (in Wales, latest figures show more than 800,000 people have had their first vaccine dose, equivalent to almost a third of the population).

But with such an enormous operation underway, there are bound to be some mix-ups (although maybe not many as amusing as this one).

So I got in touch with the local Clinical Commissioning Group, like the diligent, tiny, morbidly obese journalist that I am.

While seeing the fun of the situation, they said it is important for people who think they may have been wrongly invited for a vaccine to contact their GP to see if there has been a mistake.

Dr Fiona Lemmens, chair of Liverpool CCG, said: “I can see the funny side of this story but also recognise there is an important issue for us to address. There are millions of GP appointments taking place every day and while we take care to make sure records are accurate occasional data errors do occur.

“We are grateful to Liam for his honesty and for alerting his GP practice when he received his vaccination invitation. We would encourage anyone who has received a text invitation that they think they are not eligible for at this stage, to contact their GP practice to clarify. This will help ensure that more vulnerable people get vaccinated first.”

So hopefully some good can come from the parable of the obese pancake.



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