Covid deaths among over-85s plummet by 41% a week thanks to vaccine

1 month ago 6

The number of Covid deaths in over-85s is falling twice as fast it is in younger Brits, raising hopes that the UK's vaccine drive is clicking into gear, with just one per cent of the population refusing jabs.

The Government's target of administering 15 million doses is set to be hit this weekend, amid a backdrop of falling cases and deaths, with pressure growing on Boris Johnson to present his 'roadmap' out of lockdown.

The supreme efforts of volunteers over recent weeks now appears to be paying dividends, with the number of fatalities among the oldest age group now falling on average by some 41 per cent a week.

By contrast, the number of weekly deaths is falling by 22 per cent for those aged under 65.  

Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, a risk expert from the University of Cambridge, told the Sun: 'There is a statistically significant difference between the age groups. A substantial amount of this difference will be vaccines.

'And, by the end of the month, it's going to be quite dramatic. It is quite tricky to spot as deaths are falling everywhere — it's just that in older groups the drop is much faster than others.'

Meanwhile, data from the Office for National Statistics reveals just one in every 100 people offered a Covid jab have turned it down.

The Prime Minister said today he is 'optimistic' he will be able to begin announcing the easing of restrictions when he sets out his 'roadmap' out of lockdown in England on February 22.

Speaking during a visit to the Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies plant in Billingham, Teesside, where the new Novavax vaccine will be manufactured, Mr Johnson said: 'I'm optimistic, I won't hide it from you. I'm optimistic, but we have to be cautious.'

He said his first priority remained opening schools in England on March 8 to be followed by other sectors.

'Our children's education is our number one priority, but then working forward, getting non-essential retail open as well and then, in due course as and when we can prudently, cautiously, of course we want to be opening hospitality as well,' he said.

'I will be trying to set out as much as I possibly can in as much detail as I can, always understanding that we have to be wary of the pattern of disease. We don't want to be forced into any kind of retreat or reverse ferret.'

It comes as: 

The so-called R-rate is now below one in every region and stands at between 0.7 and 0.9 for the whole of the UK, which is the lowest level since summer; It was revealed illegal migrants were getting the Covid jab in plush quarantine hotels in Heathrow;Matt Hancock said he hopes Covid will become a 'treatable' virus and a disease we can 'live with' after all adults are offered a vaccine by September;It was reported that Cabinet ministers have backed the use of vaccine certificates for travellers wanting to head abroad this year;There were 15,144 new cases of coronavirus, bringing the seven-day average down 26.3 per cent on the previous week;There were an additional 758 deaths, with the seven-day total down by 27.1 per cent.

The Government's target of hitting administering 15 million doses is set to be hit this weekend, amid a backdrop of falling cases and deaths

A woman receives the AstraZeneca Covid19 vaccine at an NHS vaccination centre in Ealing, west London yesterday

Ruth Langsford revealed in an Instagram post (pictured right) that she has now received her Covid jab (pictured left). She wrote: 'Feel SO grateful. Thought it was a scam message at first as I wasn't expecting to be called until March! Thank you everybody, staff & volunteers, at the vaccination centre in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey... a quick, well organised and very friendly experience. The jab took seconds and was painless'

The priority groups for vaccinations in the UK 

1. Residents in a care home for older adults and staff working in care homes for older adults

2. All those 80 years of age and over and frontline health and social care workers

3. All those 75 years of age and over

4. All those 70 years of age and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals (not including pregnant women and those under 16 years of age)

5. All those 65 years of age and over

6. Adults aged 16 to 65 years in an at-risk group 

7. All those 60 years of age and over

8. All those 55 years of age and over

9. All those 50 years of age and over

10. Rest of the population

There is variation in uptake between age groups, however, with five per cent of those offered the vaccine aged 30-49 deciding not to receive it, compared to two per cent for the 50-69s and less than one per cent for the over-70s. 

Furthermore, Professor Anthony Harnden, the deputy chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), has said the uptake of the coronavirus jab among care home staff remains 'far too low'.

Prof Harnden said that nationally only 66% of care home staff had taken up the offer of a first dose.

'If they are to stop potentially transmitting to those vulnerable people who they look after and care for deeply, they need to take the immunisation up. The message needs to come across loud and clear,' he told the BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

However, he rejected suggestions that the vaccine could be made compulsory among staff if they wanted to carry on working in care homes.

'I would much prefer to be able to persuade by the power of argument than to force people or to make people lose their jobs because they didn't take up the vaccine.' 

His comments come as the Government launches a fresh drive to encourage people to accept a vaccine amid continuing reluctance among some groups.

Ministers are confident they will achieve their UK-wide target of getting an offer of a vaccine to those most at risk from the virus - including all over 70s - by Monday's deadline.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he hoped a combination of vaccines and new treatments will mean Covid-19 could be a 'treatable disease' by the end of the year.

However, there is concern in Government at the rate of vaccine uptake among some communities - including some ethnic minorities.

Mr Hancock issued a direct appeal to anyone over 70 who has still not had the jab to contact the NHS over the weekend to book an appointment.

'I am determined that we protect as many of our country's most vulnerable people from this awful disease as soon as possible,' he said. 'Vaccines are the way out of this pandemic.'

NHS England said the top four priority groups in England - people aged 70 and over, care home residents and staff, health and care workers and clinically extremely vulnerable patients - 'have now been offered the opportunity to be vaccinated', while Wales said those groups had been reached.

NHS England said people aged 65 to 69 can now get a vaccine if GPs have supplies, while Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford said they had already begun contacting some over 50s.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she expects many in the 65-69 age group to have had their first jab by the middle of this month after the vast majority of older people were vaccinated.

In Northern Ireland, the Department of Health is offering everyone over 65 a vaccine by the end of February as it works its way through priority groups four and five, although it is expected to help the UK meet its overall target.

After that, the jab will be offered to people in priority group six, which is made up of those aged between 16 and 64 who have serious underlying health conditions.

This latter group, made up of some 7.3 million people, includes patients with conditions varying from morbid obesity, dementia and arthritis. 

The Prime Minister said today he is 'optimistic' he will be able to begin announcing the easing of restrictions when he sets out his 'roadmap' out of lockdown in England on February 22

Speaking during a visit to the Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies plant in Billingham, Teesside, where the new Novavax vaccine will be manufactured, Mr Johnson said: 'I'm optimistic, I won't hide it from you. I'm optimistic, but we have to be cautious'

Prime Minister Boris Johnson visits the QuantuMDx Biotechnology company in Newcastle during a visit to the North East of England

Mr Johnson speaks with Robin Page, VP systems integration as he visits the QuantuMDx Biotechnology company in Newcastle

Health conditions that make patients in Priority Group Six eligible for a vaccine 

A blood cancer (such as leukaemia, lymphoma or myeloma)

Diabetes

Dementia

A heart problem

A chest complaint or breathing difficulties, including bronchitis, emphysema or severe asthma

A kidney disease

A liver disease

Lowered immunity due to disease or treatment (such as HIV infection, steroid medication, chemotherapy or radiotherapy)

Rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or psoriasis (who may require long term immunosuppressive treatments)

Have had an organ transplant

Had a stroke or a transient ischaemic attack (TIA)

A neurological or muscle wasting condition

A severe or profound learning disability

A problem with your spleen, example sickle cell disease, or you have had your spleen removed

Are seriously overweight (BMI of 40 and above)

Are severely mentally ill

Overall, uptake of the vaccine has been high, with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) reporting a 93% take-up rate among the over 75s in England.

The DHSC is now seeking to work with community organisations and charities in England to address the concerns that are making some reluctant to get the jab, while seeking to dispel 'myths' circulating on social media.

At the same time it is looking to raise awareness of how the vaccines are being made generally available, especially among ethnic minorities, homeless people, asylum seekers and those with disabilities.

Around 30 ministers are taking part in visits and virtual meetings, including Home Secretary Priti Patel and Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi.

'We recognise that some groups feel more hesitant about getting a jab, or have more barriers, both physical and mental, preventing them from accessing one when it's offered,' Mr Zahawi said.

Mr Hancock, meanwhile, expressed the hope that coronavirus will become 'another illness that we have to live with' like flu.

'I hope that Covid-19 will become a treatable disease by the end of the year,' Mr Hancock told The Daily Telegraph.

'If Covid-19 ends up like flu, so we live our normal lives and we mitigate through vaccines and treatments, then we can get on with everything again.'

Danny Altmann, professor of immunology at Imperial College London, said he agreed with the Health Secretary's comments about the UK potentially living with coronavirus in the future in the same way as the flu.

Matt Hancock said he hoped Covid-19 will become a treatable disease by the end of the year.

Prof Altmann told Times Radio: 'I agree with the 'by the end of the year' part, I think the jury's out on what the future will look like.'

On news of the number of coronavirus patients in hospitals going down, he said: 'We're all following the data in the UK and from Israel, who are a little bit ahead of the curve in terms of vaccinations, and seeing those transmission graphs absolutely being quashed.

'We can't easily pick apart how much of that is lockdown, how much is vaccination, but it's certainly both of those things.

'I am cautiously optimistic that we are winning finally.'

The move comes as it was announced on Friday that more than 14 million across the UK have now received their first dose of one of the approved vaccines.  

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) report suggested suggested there were 695,400 Covid-19 cases in England alone by February 6, down 31 per cent from a fortnight ago in yet another firm sign the second wave is in retreat. This equates to one in eighty people having the virus

Oxford Covid vaccine will be tested on children as young as six in world-first trial

Researchers are to use 300 child volunteers to test the efficacy of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid vaccine on youngsters aged between six and 17. 

The clinical trial will assess whether the jab - known as the the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine - will produce a strong immune response in children in that age bracket. 

The Oxford jab is one of three to have been approved for use in adults in the UK, along with those from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna.

Andrew Pollard, professor of paediatric infection and immunity, and chief investigator on the Oxford vaccine trial, said: 'While most children are relatively unaffected by coronavirus and are unlikely to become unwell with the infection, it is important to establish the safety and immune response to the vaccine in children and young people as some children may benefit from vaccination.

'These new trials will extend our understanding of control of SARS-CoV2 to younger age groups.'

The first vaccinations under the trial will take place this month, with up to 240 children receiving the vaccine and the others receiving a control meningitis jab.

Elsewhere, the reproduction number, or R value, for coronavirus is now estimated to be between 0.7 and 0.9 across the UK.

This is the first time since July that R has been this low, indicating that lockdown restrictions are having an impact and the epidemic is shrinking.

As of February 9, the latest date for which figures are available, there were 25,621 patients in hospital in the UK with Covid-19 - down from a peak of over 39,000 in mid January.

The figures are likely to intensify the pressure on Mr Johnson from some Tory lockdown-sceptics to to begin easing restrictions and re-opening the economy.

Reports suggested that pubs and restaurants could begin re-opening for outdoor service in April if infections continue to fall.

However, scientists advising the Government continue to urge caution, arguing that case numbers remain too high to allow any significant easing of the controls.

Meanwhile, the DHSC said treatments for Covid-19 will soon be fast-tracked through the UK's clinical trial system, meaning they could be available on the NHS in months rather than years.

The Government, which currently funds phase 2 and 3 trials such as the Recovery trial, which brought dexamethasone and tocilizumab to the NHS, has awarded multimillion-pound funding to a phase 1 clinical trial platform.

Phase 1 trials, usually arranged by researchers, are the earliest stage of human trials that ensure treatments are safe and show a signal of benefit in treating a disease.

The funding has been awarded to expand the Agile clinical trial platform and will allow for the progress of cutting-edge treatments for Covid-19 through all three clinical trial phases in the UK - a streamlined process that is hoped to protect the supply chain.

Meanwhile, researchers are to use 300 child volunteers to test the efficacy of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid vaccine on youngsters aged between six and 17. 

The clinical trial will assess whether the jab - known as the the ChAdOx1 nCoV-19 vaccine - will produce a strong immune response in children in that age bracket. 

The Oxford jab is one of three to have been approved for use in adults in the UK, along with those from Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna.

Andrew Pollard, professor of paediatric infection and immunity, and chief investigator on the Oxford vaccine trial, said: 'While most children are relatively unaffected by coronavirus and are unlikely to become unwell with the infection, it is important to establish the safety and immune response to the vaccine in children and young people as some children may benefit from vaccination.

Fresh Government drive to encourage people to accept jabs

The Government has launched a fresh drive to encourage people to accept a vaccine amid continuing reluctance among some groups.

Ministers are confident they will achieve their UK-wide target of getting an offer of a vaccine to those most at risk from the virus - including all over 70s - by Monday's deadline.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he hoped a combination of vaccines and new treatments will mean Covid-19 could be a 'treatable disease' by the end of the year.

However, there is concern in Government at the rate of vaccine uptake among some communities - including some ethnic minorities.

Mr Hancock issued a direct appeal to anyone over 70 who has still not had the jab to contact the NHS over the weekend to book an appointment.

'I am determined that we protect as many of our country's most vulnerable people from this awful disease as soon as possible,' he said. 'Vaccines are the way out of this pandemic.'

'These new trials will extend our understanding of control of SARS-CoV2 to younger age groups.'

The first vaccinations under the trial will take place this month, with up to 240 children receiving the vaccine and the others receiving a control meningitis jab.

Earlier this week, England's deputy chief medical officer said 'several' trials were under way to develop vaccines that are safe and effective in children.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam told ITV News: 'It is perfectly possible that we will have some licensed children's vaccines for Covid-19 by the end of the year.'

The Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health has said there is evidence Covid-19 can cause death and severe illness in children, but that this is rare.

It said: 'In children, the evidence is now clear that Covid-19 is associated with a considerably lower burden of morbidity and mortality compared to that seen in the elderly.

'There is also some evidence that children may be less likely to acquire the infection. The role of children in transmission, once they have acquired the infection, is unclear, although there is no clear evidence that they are any more infectious than adults.'

The University of Oxford said theirs was the first trial in the 6-17 age group. It said other trials had begun but only measuring efficacy in those aged 16 and 17.

Rinn Song, paediatrician and clinician-scientist at the Oxford Vaccine Group, said: 'The Covid-19 pandemic has had a profound negative impact on the education, social development and emotional well-being of children and adolescents, beyond illness and rare severe disease presentations.

'It is therefore important to collect data on the safety and the immune response to our coronavirus vaccine in these age groups, so that they could potentially benefit from inclusion in vaccination programs in the near future.' 

It comes as hopes for a speedier lifting of lockdown were given a boost today as private government data showed hospitalisation rates were nosediving faster than expected. 

Modelling by Sage presented to Downing Street and leaked to The Times predicts hospital admissions and deaths will more than halve over the next month.

Patients battling coronavirus in hospital currently number around 24,000, but this figure is expected to be slashed to around 9,000 by mid-March. 

Yesterday 1,908 patients were taken to hospital in the UK, a massive drop in admission rates since the peak in January when around 4,500 were admitted on a single day. 

The R-rate has now been confirmed to be below 1 for the first time since July, with a pincer movement of vaccines and current restrictions credited for suppressing the virus.

Boris Johnson is due to unveil his road map to easing restrictions on the week of February 22, and the latest data  will likely cement his determination to reopen schools on March 8.

Sources said this will be the first step to a gradual return of freedoms, including outdoor mixing, and pubs serving pints in beer gardens earmarked for April.

But in spite of tumbling hospitalisation, case and death rates, government advisers are urging the Prime Minister to hold off loosening the lockdown for at least another two months. 

The chair of the NHS Confederation Lord Adebowale said this morning the health service was still 'on its knees' and urged ministers to adopt extreme caution in any easing of restrictions. 

The PM is being pulled the other way by his hawkish backbenches, who have called for a sweeping away of all curbs by May. 

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