7 important things we learned about vaccines

Connor Parker
·5 min read
The UK is on track to hit its vaccine targets. (PA)
The UK is on track to hit its vaccine targets. (PA)

The vaccine rollout in the UK has continued to carry on at speed and early analysis has suggested it is saving thousands of lives but difficult questions over supply, exports and passports are lingering in the near future.

One of the first analysis of its kind suggested on Thursday around 6,100 deaths from COVID have been prevented so far in the UK by the vaccines, and the country is close to reaching its target of giving everyone over 50 their first jab by the end of April.

But the fears over limited supply during April and the difficulty over deciding what to do with vaccine passports means there are still many difficult choices ahead before the country can hopefully put the pandemic behind us.

9 in 10 over 50s have had vaccine  

An estimated 25.5% of people over 80 had received both doses of the vaccine as of 21 March.

Deaths have been falling rapidly in recent weeks. (PA)
Deaths have been falling rapidly in recent weeks. (PA)

Read more: Region of England with three times COVID rate of London highlights stark divide in infection rates

In some regions the proportion is even higher, with an estimate of 26.1% for south-west England and 30.6% for north-east England and Yorkshire.

Figures also show an estimated 87.0% of people aged 50 and over in England have now had their first dose of vaccine.

The Government has set a target of offering the first dose of vaccine to everyone in England aged 50 and over by the middle of April.

6,000 deaths prevented by jab

A study from Public Health England (PHE), said there was now evidence “that the Covid-19 vaccination programme is already having a significant impact on severe Covid-19 disease in England beyond the effect of the national lockdown.”

The study said around 5,900 deaths had been averted among those aged 80 and over and 200 in those aged 70 to 79.

With vaccines also thought to have an effect on transmission of the virus, the 6,100 figure could prove to be an underestimate.

The government extended the special coronavirus laws by six months on Thursda. (PA)
The government extended the special coronavirus laws by six months on Thursda. (PA)

Read more: Vaccine hoarding at expense of other countries 'could come back to haunt us’

The analysis compared the observed number of deaths with the number that would have been expected if the vaccine had not been given during this time, plus allowing 31 days for the effect of vaccination on deaths to be observed.

Over-50s urged to book jab

On Thursday Professor Stephen Powis, the national medical director for the NHS, called for anyone who qualifies for a jab but has not yet received a first dose to book an appointment in the next few days.

Around seven in 10 people aged 50 to 54 have now had a first dose of a vaccine, according to NHS England.

Anybody aged 50 or over can book themselves in for a first dose before March 29 online using the national booking system for England.

People aged 18 and over who are clinically vulnerable should also book themselves in for a vaccine.

Vaccine passports for the pub

There has been a brewing row over the use of vaccine passports in the UK as a tool for allowing society to open up safely.

Boris Johnson acknowledged the “moral complexities” around a domestic vaccine passport scheme on Thursday and suggested that it might only be possible to introduce one after all adults had been offered a vaccine at the end of July.

He said no decision had been made yet and nothing would be said until April.

Watch: Pub 'vaccine passports' could be considered after everyone offer a jab

An earlier suggestion by Mr Johnson that it could be up to landlords to decide who they let into their premises was rejected by many pubs.

The boss of the Shepherd Neame brewery and pub chain said that making jabs mandatory for entry to pubs is a “fairly poorly thought-out idea”, as trade bodies suggested the idea was “simply unworkable”.

'Stupid vaccine war'

Former European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker urged the EU to step back from waging a “stupid vaccine war” with the UK.

He warned that threatening export bans could cause “major reputational damage” to the bloc as EU leaders held discussions on tightening restrictions to supplies of coronavirus jabs.

Mr Juncker, who was succeeded by Ursula von der Leyen in 2019, told the BBC’s Hardtalk: “I do think that we have to pull back from a vaccine war.

“I think that there is room for dialogue, for discussions, for developing arguments on both sides of the Channel.

“Nobody in Britain, nobody in Europe understands why we are witnessing such a, according to the news, a stupid vaccine war.

“This cannot be dealt with in a war atmosphere."

AstraZeneca revises vaccine data

AstraZeneca lowered its estimate on the efficacy of its vaccine from 79% to 76% after complaints from US officials on Thursday.

US federal health officials expressed concern were based on “outdated information”.

Watch: AstraZeneca COVID Vaccine Slightly Less Effective Than First Reported

In its statement on Thursday the company said the latest analysis confirms “vaccine efficacy consistent with the pre-specified interim analysis” announced on Monday.

The firm said its vaccine also has 100% efficacy against severe or critical disease and hospitalisation due to coronavirus and is 85% effective against symptomatic Covid-19 in patients aged 65 years and over.

Many care home staff not had first dose 

The latest data from NHS England, published on Thursday, shows that 76.6% of eligible staff at older adult care homes had been given a first jab by 21 March.

It is the fifth consecutive week that the proportion of staff given a first dose has been around 75%, going back to 71.5% by 21 February.

The latest figures come just days after the Government confirmed it is considering the possibility of making vaccination a legal requirement for healthcare staff.

But Matt Hancock has insisted “no final decision” has yet been taken.