Months of lockdown restrictions and the swift rollout of the coronavirus vaccines has helped to drive down Covid hospital admissions and deaths across the UK.
The number of patients in hospital in England with coronavirus has fallen to its lowest level in eight months, according to the NHS, with figures down by 98 per cent from a record 34,336 hospital patients in mid-January.
The falling number of Covid cases has allowed lockdown restrictions to be eased across the country, including the reopening of indoor dining, accommodation, indoor entertainment and some foreign travel in England, Wales and Scotland on Monday (17 May).
Around 57,000 vaccine doses have now been given across the UK, with 20.3 million people fully vaccinated - amounting to 30.4 per cent of the population.
However, despite the vast number of vaccinations, some people who have had the jab have later been infected with Covid - and in some cases, admitted to hospital.
Can you still get Covid after vaccination?
A UK report recently found that 500 people who received their Covid jab were later admitted to hospital with coronavirus, with 113 of these people later dying in what the research team branded “vaccine failures”.
Research showed that the patients had all received their first dose of a Covid vaccine at least three weeks before they were admitted to hospital.
It is expected that the majority of these people were likely infected just before, or around the time of their vaccination, highlighting the importance of social distancing measures to allow immunity from the vaccines to develop.
Forty per cent of patients in the study developed coronavirus symptoms up to seven days after their vaccination, while a further 19 per cent started feeling unwell between eight and 14 days afterwards.
On average, coronavirus symptoms typically develop within five days of being infected, meaning many of these patients contracted the virus before immunity from the vaccines kicked in. However, 12 per cent of patients displayed symptoms between 15 and 21 days after vaccination, with 29 per cent not showing any signs until 21 days after.
Researchers described these cases as examples of “vaccine failure”, meaning immunity is not expected to have fully developed.
Why didn’t the vaccines offer protection?
The research team stressed that the cases of vaccine failure were not an unexpected finding, as none of the Covid vaccines are 100 per cent effective. Although it was noted that the number of vaccinated people being admitted to hospital with coronavirus 21 days after getting their jab were “tiny”.
Of the 400 people who did develop symptoms 21 days after vaccination, 113 sadly died (28 per cent). It was found that the death rate was higher among older people, with 82 of these deaths occurring in the “frail elderly” group.
The findings reinforce the need to continue following social distancing measures after vaccination, to allow immunity to fully develop.
Government guidance notes that it can take a few weeks for your body to build up some protection from the vaccine, and both doses are needed to offer the highest level of protection. In the case of this study, all patients had only received their first dose.
Prof Deborah Dunn-Walters, chair of the British Society for Immunology Covid-19 taskforce and Professor of Immunology at the University of Surrey, explained that no vaccine is 100 per cent effective in stopping disease, but it is important for people to get immunised as it can not only help prevent any further spread, vaccines can make symptoms less severe in the event people still get infection.
Speaking to NationalWorld, Prof Dunn-Walters said: “The most important point to make is that we know from other studies that all Covid vaccines available in the UK are highly effective in preventing serious disease and hospitalisation from Covid-19. This paper examines the very small minority of people for whom this is not the case.
“The immune response generated by any vaccine takes a minimum of 10 to 14 days to develop the all-important immune memory that stops us getting sick if we come in contact with the real virus.
“We would not expect any vaccine to have much, if any, effect on disease hospitalisation rates before 14 days post-vaccination, as the immune system is still building its memory and protection will not yet be up to maximum power.
“According to this paper, the majority of hospitalisations for Covid-19 post-vaccination take place in this one to 14 day window when protection from the vaccine is not yet fully active. This shows the importance of maintaining social distancing, even after vaccination, to minimise the risk of contracting SARS-CoV-2 before your immune protection is active.
“A very small number of people were hospitalised 21 days post-vaccination and it’s these people that we need to examine in more detail to understand why the vaccine did not afford them full protection. Understanding what immunologists call the ‘correlates of protection’, or what effective immunity against Covid-19 looks like at the cellular level, will help provide answers to this.
“Overall, we can be confident that the Covid-19 vaccination programme is highly effective in preventing serious disease and saving lives. I urge anyone who is offered a Covid vaccine to get it.
“However, let’s not be complacent and let’s continue monitoring the vaccine rollout to refine our response and make sure we continue to hasten the end of the pandemic.”
Falling hospital admissions
A total of 798 patients were hospitalised with Covid on 17 May, marking the lowest number since 691 on 13 September 2020.
North-west England reported 152 hospital patients with Covid-19 on 17 May, down 97 per cent from its second-wave peak, while in London there were 259 patients on 117 May, also down 97 per cent from the second-wave peak.
Eastern England, south-east England and south-west England are all reporting patient numbers down 99 per cent on their second-wave peak.
The Midlands has seen its number drop by 98 per cent, and the combined region of north-east England and Yorkshire has seen a drop of 97 per cent.
Research published last week by Public Health England (PHE) suggested that Covid vaccinations had prevented around 3,900 hospital admissions in England among people aged 65 to 74 up to the end of April, along with 13,100 in those aged 75 to 84 and 16,000 in those aged 85 and older.
The steep fall in patients is fresh evidence of the combined impact of lockdown restrictions and vaccines in helping reduce the number of Covid infections that lead to hospital admission.
Commenting on the figures, Professor Stephen Powis, national medical director for the NHS, said: “The continued reduction in Covid-19 patients in hospital from over 34,000 in the January peak to fewer than 800 is testament to the hard work of NHS staff who have successfully delivered the world’s first Covid-19 vaccination programme at speed, while caring for 400,000 patients with Covid-19 in hospital, played a key role in introducing life-saving treatments, such as dexamethasone, as well as continuing non-Covid care, including for cancer, maternity and people who needed mental health support during the pandemic.
“But with cases of variants increasing, it is as important as ever for the public to continue to follow government guidelines and to get the vaccine when it’s your turn.”
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