UK Vaccination Progress Update

The UK has set out its steps to reduce coronavirus restrictions. It’s hoped the fantastic progress of the vaccination programme will mean this is the last COVID-19 lockdown in the UK.

We’ve been told that decisions will be informed by the data, so let’s dig into the stats!

Cases – and the rate of infection

Cases have been dropping for the last seven weeks, from a high of 414k confirmed cases in Week 44 – 4th of Jan to 10th of Jan. The ONS estimated 1 in 50 people had the virus in England in the last week of 2020. That’s now dropped to 1 in 145 people.

The rate of infection (the “R” rate) has been below 1 for seven weeks now – by my estimates, which are based on the reported positive test results.

An “R” of 0.9 means every 100 people with the virus, infect a further 90. An “R” of 1.1 means those 100 people instead infect 110 people.

Cases are going in the right direction, although I’d argue it’s not cases that matter anymore.

UK COVID-19 Cases, Hospitalisations, Deaths and Vaccinations

Hospital Patients

The reason we’ve all been asked to “Stay at home” is to “Protect the NHS” and “Save lives”. The more people who get ill with coronavirus, the more pressure that puts on the National Health Service.

It’s okay to have COVID-19 cases if nobody goes to hospital. Thanks to the vaccine roll-out, fewer people are, and here’s a great visual tweet explaining why.

Vaccination almost completely eliminates the chance of getting severe or moderate symptoms!

There are still significant numbers of people in hospital, but it’s now less than half the peak and dropping further.

Deaths

The vaccine will reduce hospital admissions, but it’ll also reduce deaths – even more significantly so.

Even a single dose of the Oxford-AstraZeneca and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines is proving to have a significant impact on immunity to COVID-19. This is great news and will be contributing to the rapid fall in deaths in the UK.

In just five weeks, the UK has gone from ~8.7k coronavirus deaths a week to ~2.3k. To put that in perspective, around 3.2k people sadly die from cancer each week.

Vaccines

Here’s why the UK has been able to set-out it’s roadmap out of lockdown: the vaccine roll-out.

The UK is vaccinating the entire adult population (53 million people) meaning it needs to administer 106 million vaccinations.

So far over 1 in 3 people have had their first dose, and the programme is already over 20% complete.

UK COVID-19 Vaccine Progress

If the UK continues to roll-out vaccinations at the current rate, it’s set to meet, if not exceed its targets to re-open the country.

All the data I’ve shared in this post comes from the UK Gov Coronovirus Dashboard. Predictions are based on my interpretation of this data and vaccine supply data.

2 thoughts on “UK Vaccination Progress Update

  1. Hi Christopher, that’s a great post. I wanted to comment on some of the things said (which is why we are here after all)!

    You say ‘It’s OK to have COVID-19 cases if nobody goes to hospital’. That might not ba as common sense as it sounds though. The implication there is that the UK (and I can’t say the world or even Europe here for reasons that I will get to) will go back to what we used to call ‘normal life’. This involves mixing with friends, watching football, going to gigs and theatres and for most, the pub.

    Once this happens the virus will spread once more. As you note, most people will not get sick enough to have to be taken to hospital, but many will become. But we should remember that the vaccine cannot be taken by everybody. Those with immunity issues and a host of other medical conditions will be excluded from mainstream society simply because they could not be vaccinated.

    And the virus will continue to spread and to mutate infected (the report you cite says about 46% of those currently getting infected). This might have serious consequences, as mutations might be more difficult to defend against in terms of vaccines.

    Thirdly, and related to this, the antibodies produced by the vaccine will not last indefinitely. There are various suggestions for how long they will remain active, but it is measured in months, not years. So in a situation where the virus is left to spread in a society that mixes freely and as a result mutate, an ongoing vaccination strategy that involves following the mutations and adjusting the vaccines (as is done today with the Flu) and vaccinating large parts (if not all) of the population will have to be endlessly carried out, at least until the virus mutates favourably.

    And of course all of this has to be paid for.

    If we look from a broader perspective I would have to ask the question of what the implications are for the global political order when a country (UK) manages to get hold of so much vaccine while many parts of the world cannot get hold of enough (in the case of Europe and other industrialized areas), or any (in the case of some other less industrialized countries).

    This brings long term problems: How can you have a vaccination passport if everybody doesn’t have access to the vaccine and the choices and infrastructure necessary? How can you even open the borders if those outside have not been vaccinated? What are the implications of tourism strategies based on vaccinated hotel workers serving vaccinated tourists on what will become, for all intents and purposes, private holiday islands? How about business travel, or academia and research collaborations?

    I am not implying that the UK government’s approach is wrong though. This is an emergency situation and they seem to have found a way of getting the crisis under some control, which can only be lauded. A form of normality will arrive in the UK long before it arrives in other places. But the path chosen is not as clear as it might appear, from a practical as well as an ethical perspective.

    • Christopher Roberts

      As ever, thank you for the fantastic insight and critical feedback Jonny! 🙂

      It is a very fair comment that cases still matter – since like you say, the more exposure the virus gets, the higher the chance of mutation. I agree that cases do still matter. I hope in future decisions on whether to lock people in their houses for months at a time will be based of a mixture of data, mainly focused deaths and healthcare capacity.

      After your post on how different vaccinations work, I did some more research into who can have a vaccination. Luckily almost everyone can get it, including the immunocompromised – since none of the current vaccines use a live form of the virus. Some people with allergies may not be able to have the Pfizer vaccine, and as with some other vaccinations, it can’t be taken during pregnancy.

      Equally, I think once (as a world) we’ve got a handle on COVID-19, we need to normalise it slightly more – rather than coronaviruses being seen as some kind of unique terror. Sadly many people die of all sorts of infectious mutational diseases (including seasonal Flu) each year, and while there is usually a health service led drive to encourage better hygiene habits around winter-time, we’ve never seen lock-downs to reduce the impact of these infections.

      In terms of vaccine nationalism, that’s a really great issue to bring up. It’s such a shame that as a globe, we haven’t come together to support each other and equally share vaccine supply – targeting the most vulnerable first.

      I understand the UK was the earliest and largest investor in many different vaccine development programmes (some of which didn’t deliver anything), which is why it has better stock levels than most. It also has one of the highest death rates per capita of any nation, so the vaccine supply is a silver lining.

      I think it’s really positive that the UK has said it will share surplus vaccinations with developing nations, although I think that should be after it has vaccinated its vulnerable people, rather than the whole adult population.

      The recent blockade by the EU, of a shipment of AstraZeneca vaccinations to Australia is deeply worrying. Some elderly people across Europe are now concerned about the AstraZeneca vaccines effectiveness – due to government driven misinformation – which had led to doses being wasted at testing centres across the continent. That’s a horrific shame and makes the blockade of Australia’s vaccine supply even more tragic.

      There is another discussion point too – for another day! What should/will the “new normal” look like? Can we use COVID-19 as an opportunity to put a bigger focus on the environment, as well as mental health and wellbeing? I really hope so 🙂

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