Unvaccinated people are up to 32 times more likely to die if they catch Covid, ONS report finds

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Unvaccinated people are up to 32 times more likely to die if they catch Covid than the double-vaccinated, official figures suggested today.

An Office for National Statistics (ONS) report found the mortality rate for deaths involving Covid in England among unjabbed adults was 849.7 per 100,000. For comparison, the rate stood at just 26.2 for fully vaccinated people and 105.3 for adults who had only had their first dose. 

Death figures were for between January 2 to September 24 this year, which includes the brunt of the second wave when millions of adults weren’t yet eligible for vaccines. 

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People were counted as being single- or double-vaccinated from 21 days after each dose because of the length of time taken for immunity to kick in and protect against the virus. 

Experts today heralded the results as clear evidence that everyone should get the vaccine. But some warned that the figures may have ‘overstated’ the power of jabs.

The above graph shows the age-standardised mortality rates for deaths involving Covid in England by vaccination status. They are given as per 100,000 person-years, and are age-standardised to take account of different vaccine roll out times in age groups. They show the unvaccinated are most likely to die if they catch Covid

The above graph shows the age-standardised mortality rates for deaths involving Covid in England by vaccination status. They are given as per 100,000 person-years, and are age-standardised to take account of different vaccine roll out times in age groups. They show the unvaccinated are most likely to die if they catch Covid

The above graph shows that people who have received two doses of the vaccine (green line) are least likely to die if they catch the virus. They are followed by those who have got just one dose (purple line). The unvaccinated are most likely to die if they catch Covid (blue line)

The above graph shows that people who have received two doses of the vaccine (green line) are least likely to die if they catch the virus. They are followed by those who have got just one dose (purple line). The unvaccinated are most likely to die if they catch Covid (blue line)

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In the report mortality rates were age-standardised, to account for the fact different age groups were vaccinated at separate times. 

Older people who are most likely to die if they catch the virus were prioritised in the roll out, with the over-80s invited to get their first dose in December. But those in their early 20s had to wait until June to be called.

There was also a gap of 12 weeks between the first and second dose towards the beginning of the drive to ensure the maximum number of people could be jabbed in the shortest time possible. But in June this was cut to eight weeks.

Vaccines just as effective against Delta offshoot as its ancestor

Covid vaccines are just as effective against the Delta variant offshoot as its ancestor, scientists say.

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A report by the UK Health Security Agency — which replaced the now-defunct Public Health England — published on Friday found being jabbed slashed the risk of someone infected with AY.4.2 developing symptoms by 81 per cent.

For comparison, two doses are thought to block around 83 per cent of all people falling ill with the ancestor strain.

The UKHSA said the preliminary results do ‘not suggest a significant reduction in vaccine effectiveness for AY.4.2 compared to Delta’ and admitted the slight drop may be down to chance.

Almost 24,000 cases of the strain have now been spotted in Britain. 

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But the true count could be 10 times higher because laboratories are only sequencing a fraction of all confirmed samples.

Separate surveillance data shows the variant has now been found in all but a dozen parts of England and makes up one in ten new cases — with its proportion having doubled in the space of a month.

Despite statistics showing it’s still outcompeting its ancestor, some experts are now questioning how much more transmissible than Delta the subtype really is. Scientists initially estimated the strain was around 10 to 15 per cent more infectious.

Figures show while cases of the mutant strain are continuing to increase, its curve is flattening off. It is increasing slower than its predecessor did at this point after it was first sequenced. 

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The ONS used figures from the Public Health Data Asset database, which contains people in England linked to the census in 2011 and GP records in 2019, to establish who had received the vaccine. It covers just under 80 per cent of the country’s population. 

The report also included data on deaths from all causes — such as heart disease and cancer, not just Covid.

It showed the un-vaccinated were still three times more likely to have died between January to December (2,187 per 100,000) than those who got two doses of the vaccine (783.6). 

Commenting on the data John Roberts, from the Covid actuaries response group, said on Twitter: ‘The difference in total mortality between the two groups (1,403.5) is more than the difference in Covid deaths (823.5).

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‘That’s almost certainly due to the fact the demographic profile of the unvaccinated experiences higher mortality normally.

‘We know that uptake has been lower in ethnic minority groups and more deprived areas, so in fact I would have been surprised if we didn’t see this difference. So the 32 times might overstate the vaccine effect, but it is still going to be considerable.’

Chris Snowdon, head of lifestyle economics at the Institute for Economic Affairs, warned the statistics may have ‘gilded the lily’ slightly because of the time period used.

He tweeted: ‘This is a dodgy statistic when very few people were fully vaccinated until March. The evidence is good without having to gild the lily like this.’

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Almost 50million Britons — or 86.9 per cent of over-12s — have got at least one dose of the Covid vaccine, and 45.7million have received both doses.

The NHS started rolling out vaccines to over-80s, the vulnerable and health and social care workers in December.

It is now also offering them to 12 to 15-year-olds following a recommendation from No10’s vaccine advisers back in September, although uptake has been sluggish.

And booster shots are being offered for the over-50s from six months after their second dose to top-up their immunity ahead of what is expected to be a very hard winter for the NHS.

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The report builds on evidence that Covid vaccines slash the risk of hospitalisation and death among people who catch the virus, and its variants.

A report by the UK Health Security Agency — which replaced the now-defunct Public Health England — found last week that jabs work just as well against the more transmissible Delta offshoot as they do on its ancestor.

Scientists said the vaccines slashed the risk of someone infected with AY.4.2 of developing symptoms by 81 per cent.

For comparison, two doses are thought to block around 83 per cent of all people falling ill with the ancestor strain.

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The UKHSA said the preliminary results do ‘not suggest a significant reduction in vaccine effectiveness for AY.4.2 compared to Delta’ and admitted the slight drop may be down to chance.

Almost 24,000 cases of the strain have now been spotted in Britain. But the true count could be 10 times higher because laboratories are only sequencing a fraction of all confirmed samples.

Separate surveillance data shows the variant has now been found in all but a dozen parts of England and makes up one in ten new cases — with its proportion having doubled in the space of a month.

Despite statistics showing it’s still outcompeting its ancestor, some experts are now questioning how much more transmissible than Delta the subtype really is. Scientists initially estimated the strain was around 10 to 15 per cent more infectious.

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Figures show while cases of the mutant strain are continuing to increase, its curve is flattening off. It is increasing slower than its predecessor did at this point after it was first sequenced. 

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