Many western countries used shielding (extended self-isolation) of people presumed to be at high-risk from COVID-19 to protect them and reduce healthcare demand. To investigate the effectiveness of this strategy, we linked family practitioner, prescribing, laboratory, hospital and death records and compared COVID-19 outcomes among shielded and non-shielded individuals in the West of Scotland. Of the 1.3 million population, 27,747 (2.03%) were advised to shield, and 353,085 (26.85%) were classified a priori as moderate risk. COVID-19 testing was more common in the shielded (7.01%) and moderate risk (2.03%) groups, than low risk (0.73%). Referent to low-risk, the shielded group had higher confirmed infections (RR 8.45, 95% 7.44-9.59), case-fatality (RR 5.62, 95% CI 4.47-7.07) and population mortality (RR 57.56, 95% 44.06-75.19). The moderate-risk had intermediate confirmed infections (RR 4.11, 95% CI 3.82-4.42) and population mortality (RR 25.41, 95% CI 20.36-31.71) but, due to their higher prevalence, made the largest contribution to deaths (PAF 75.30%). Age ≥ 70 years accounted for 49.55% of deaths. In conclusion, in spite of the shielding strategy, high risk individuals were at increased risk of death. Furthermore, to be effective as a population strategy, shielding criteria would have needed to be widely expanded to include other criteria, such as the elderly.
© 2021. The Author(s).