The Vaccines Are Working, But It’s Not Over Yet

Covid-19

The Vaccines Are Working, But It’s Not Over Yet

Commentary
Posted on: 16th July 2021
By Multiple Authors
Harry Summers
Political researcher
Ezra Bowden
Intern, Political Team

Recent data shows cases, hospitalisations and deaths attributed to Covid-19 are on the rise. However, the link between serious illness as a result of the disease and overall case numbers is rupturing, although it has not been severed completely. The data shows that vaccines are having a positive effect, but the UK isn’t in a position to fully lift restrictions in the way the government envisages. The important data this blog sets out shows there is an urgent need to find a middle path to reopening, one that better balances risk and restriction.

At first glance the current picture looks dark, but closer examination shows that vaccines are having a positive effect on the most severe cases.

Covid-19 cases are growing at an exponential rate. A total of 221,052 people tested positive in the last 7 days - up 47,390 from the prior 7-day period. This averages out to 31,579 cases per day in the last 7 days, up 6,770 per day from the prior 7-day period. Covid-19-related deaths are also increasing although the rate at which they are rising is much lower than previously. There were 203 deaths within 28 days of a positive test in the last 7 days - up 81 from the prior 7-day period. This averages to 29 deaths per day in the last 7 days, which is up 11.6 per day from the prior 7-day period. Hospitalisation numbers are following a similar trend: 2,371 patients are in hospital currently (36 higher than 7 days prior) with 417 on ventilation (48 higher than 7 days prior).

The Yellow Card reports paint a positive picture of vaccine efficacy against Covid-19. Based on the data in the scheme run by the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), reported deaths are still showing a significant drop. However, it is important to note that Yellow Card reporting is done voluntarily and could be underestimating the full number of Covid-19 cases post-inoculation.

Figure 1 - Yellow Card reports of Covid-19 cases and deaths in vaccinated people shown by vaccine. Yellow card data is not confirmed and does not include dosage information

 

AZ

Pfizer

Moderna

 

Reported

Deaths

Reported

Deaths

Reported

Deaths

Asymptomatic Covid-19

4

0

11

0

N/A

N/A

Covid-19

499

23

733

33

13

0

Covid-19 pneumonia

32

9

34

13

N/A

N/A

Coronavirus infection

5

0

6

0

N/A

N/A

Source: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-vaccine-adverse-reactions/coronavirus-vaccine-summary-of-yellow-card-reporting

The link between confirmed infections and hospitalisations has been significantly disrupted, but not completely broken.

On 8 January 2021 cases were close to current levels: 33,778 new cases compared to 31,772 on 8 July. However, hospitalisations far outstripped those of today with 4,392 reported for 8 January and 563 reported on 8 July. Even as recently as 8 April, we were seeing high levels of hospitalisations compared to the number of cases, with 2,871 new cases and 223 admitted to hospital. This dramatic drop in hospitalisations shows that even among those who have contracted Covid-19 after one or two doses of the vaccine, the inoculation has kept individuals from becoming severely ill. Figure 2 illustrates the widening gulf between cases and hospitalisations.

Figure 2 - 7-day average for number of cases (blue) and total hospitalisations (red) from September 2020 to present

Chart showing hospitalisations and deaths

Source: Coronavirus.data.gov.uk

Vaccines are lowering deaths among all age groups, particularly older patients, compared to those who are unvaccinated.

As Figure 3 indicates, the inoculation campaign has resulted in a dramatic decrease in the number of deaths for those aged 65 or older. However, the plateauing effect since May 2021 shows that the link between cases and serious illness or death has not been broken.

Figure 3 - Weekly number of deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid-19 test in people aged 65 and over in England

Bar chart death in over 65s from Covid

Source: Coronavirus.data.gov.uk

Figure 4 - Hospital admissions and deaths by vaccination status for confirmed Delta variant cases from 1 February 2021 to 21 June 2021 in England. As of 3 July, Delta variant accounted for 99% of sequenced cases 

 

Age

<21 days post dose 1

>21 days post dose 1

2 doses

Unvaccinated

Hospital admissions

All

117

258

313

1,182

<50

106

118

48

987

>50

11

140

265

195

Deaths

All

1

44

118

92

<50

0

3

2

21

>50

1

41

116

71

Source: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/1001358/Variants_of_Concern_VOC_Technical_Briefing_18.pdf

Figure 4 reveals that although the overall numbers point to strong vaccine efficacy against the new Delta variant, there are still those who are being hospitalised after receiving two doses of the vaccine. However, it is important to note that because the data reflect overall numbers, those who are over 50 have all been given the opportunity to get fully vaccinated, and thus the absolute number of the unvaccinated population compared to the vaccinated is significantly lower. Therefore, we would expect the number of infections to reflect these drastically disproportional population sizes.

When examining the number of those under the age of 50 who have been hospitalised due to the disease after two doses, it appears lower than those who remain unvaccinated. One can thus infer that the vaccines are offering strong protection to younger cohorts but that because so many still remain without their second doses, this particular population is still more vulnerable to contracting the virus.

Death rates tell a similar story to the hospitalisation numbers. Although in the over-50s, the death rate is showing up higher for those with two doses, this is due to the fact that the overall number of people unvaccinated compared to vaccinated is significantly lower. If the absolute number of the population was closer to evenly split, we’d be seeing a much higher death rate among the unvaccinated. The under-50 age group’s mortality numbers mirror those of the hospital admissions - those unvaccinated remain much more susceptible to the virus than those who are fully inoculated.

The government should rethink its current approach to reopening.

Based on the data collected above, it stands to reason that the UK government should rethink its current reopening approach. Case numbers are rising rapidly. The link between hospitalisations and infection rates has been blunted but not broken. If the UK wants to reopen society safely, effectively and without the need for future lockdown measures, a more tempered approach to reopening is necessary.

Image: Getty Images

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