People who were fully vaccinated accounted for just 1.2% of all deaths involving COVID-19 in England in the first seven months of this year, according to the UK Office of National Statistics.
The figures have been seized on as proof of the success of the vaccine programme, reports The Guardian. They show a total of 51,281 deaths involving COVID-19 in England between 2 January and 2 July, of which 38,964 were of unvaccinated people. Of the total COVID-related deaths, 458 (about 0.9%) were of people who died at least 21 days after their second vaccine dose. Just 256 deaths (0.5%) were of people who were fully vaccinated and had their first positive PCR test at least 14 days after their second dose.
No vaccine is 100% effective against COVID-19, and health authorities have made it clear that some deaths of vaccinated individuals are to be expected.
Public Health England (PHE) has estimated that two-dose effectiveness against hospital admission with infections from the Delta variant –now the UK’s dominant strain – has been around 94%.
However, the latest figures underlined that the risk of death involving COVID-19 is consistently lower for people who’ve had two doses compared with one dose or no vaccination at all. A detailed breakdown of data was made available for 252 of the 256 people who died after having received both jabs and who first tested positive at least 14 days after the second dose. They are what the ONS describes as “breakthrough” deaths.
It shows that just more than three-quarters of these deaths (76.6%) occurred in those who were clinically extremely vulnerable – a slightly higher proportion than for other COVID-19 deaths (74.5%) and deaths not involving COVID-19 (69.7%).
Of the breakthrough deaths, 61.1% occurred in males, which is higher than for other COVID-19 deaths (52.2%) and deaths not involving COVID-19 (48.5%), while 13% were among people who were immunocompromised.
Experts emphasised the importance of context in terms of the data, which covered a period when the seven-day average daily UK deaths varied between six and more than 1,200 per day. Trends were increasing at the end of the ONS study period, reports The Guardian, when rates were about 25 per day, while daily death rates are now consistently more than 100 per day.
Dr Duncan Robertson, a data analyst at Loughborough University who has been focusing on COVID-19 modelling and analysis, is quoted in : “By definition, as the proportion of vaccinated people increases, fewer remain in the unvaccinated category. In the extreme, if everyone were vaccinated, 100% of deaths would be of vaccinated people, just as before the vaccine rollout, 0% of deaths would be of vaccinated people.”
But he added: “What is clear from the ONS data is the significance of being fully vaccinated – full vaccination offers very high – but not perfect – protection against death, where only having a first dose offers significantly less protection.
“While figures for protection against infection needs careful interpretation, particularly in the estimates of population in each age category, it is clear that vaccine protection against death is very high after the second dose,” he added.
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