There is considerable uncertainty over whether adults with asthma should be offered booster vaccines against SARS-CoV-2 and, if so, who should be prioritised for booster vaccination. We were asked by the UK's Joint Commission on Vaccination and Immunisation to undertake an urgent analysis to identify which adults with asthma were at an increased risk of serious COVID-19 outcomes to inform deliberations on booster COVID-19 vaccines.


This national incident cohort study was done in all adults in Scotland aged 18 years and older who were included in the linked dataset of Early Pandemic Evaluation and Enhanced Surveillance of COVID-19 (EAVE II). We used data from EAVE II to investigate the risk of COVID-19 hospitalisation and the composite outcome of intensive care unit (ICU) admission or death from COVID-19 among adults with asthma. A Cox proportional hazard model was used to derive adjusted hazard ratios (HRs) and 95% CIs for the association between asthma and COVID-19 hospital admission and ICU admission or death, stratified by markers of history of an asthma attack defined by either oral corticosteroid prescription (prednisolone, prednisone, and dexamethasone) in the 2 years before March 1, 2020, or hospitalisation for asthma before March 1, 2020. Analyses were adjusted for age, sex, socioeconomic status, comorbidity, previous hospitalisation, and vaccine status.


Between March 1, 2020, and July 27, 2021, 561 279 (12·7%) of 4 421 663 adults in Scotland had clinician-diagnosed-and-recorded-asthma. Among adults with asthma, 39 253 (7·0%) had confirmed SARS-CoV-2 infections, of whom 4828 (12·3%) were admitted to hospital for COVID-19 (among them, an estimated 600 [12·4%] might have been due to nosocomial infections). Adults with asthma were found to be at an increased risk of COVID-19 hospital admission (adjusted HR 1·27, 95% CI 1·23–1·32) compared with those without asthma. When using oral corticosteroid prescribing in the preceding 2 years as a marker for history of an asthma attack, the adjusted HR was 1·54 (95% CI 1·46–1·61) for those with three or more prescribed courses of oral corticosteroids, 1·37 (1·26–1·48) for those with two prescribed courses, 1·30 (1·23–1·37) for those with one prescribed course, and 1·15 (1·11–1·21) for those without any courses, compared with those aged 18 years or older without asthma. Adults with asthma were found to be at an increased risk of COVID-19 ICU admission or death compared with those without asthma (adjusted HR 1·13, 95 % CI 1·05–1·22). The adjusted HR was 1·44 (95% CI 1·31–1·58) for those with three or more prescribed courses of oral corticosteroids, 1·27 (1·09–1·48) for those with two prescribed courses, 1·04 (0·93–1·16) for those with one prescribed course, and 1·06 (0·97–1·17) for those without any course, compared with adults without asthma.


Adults with asthma who have required two or more courses of oral corticosteroids in the previous 2 years or a hospital admission for asthma before March 1, 2020, are at increased risk of both COVID-19 hospitalisation and ICU admission or death. Patients with a recent asthma attack should be considered a priority group for booster COVID-19 vaccines.

Cite as

Shi, T., Pan, J., Vasileiou, E., Robertson, C. & Sheikh, A. 2022, 'Risk of serious COVID-19 outcomes among adults with asthma in Scotland: a national incident cohort study', Lancet Respiratory Medicine, 10(4), pp. 347-354. https://doi.org/10.1016/S2213-2600(21)00543-9

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Last updated: 16 June 2022
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