COVID-19: Wave#3: The Effect of Vaccines

Click on the figure for a larger version. Charts showing the rates of cases, hospitalisations and deaths across different age groups – with categorisation according to vaccination status: Double-Vaccinated (blue) or Not-Vaccinated  (orange). Individual charts are also shown below.

Friends, as I mentioned in my previous blog, I have been puzzled about “what is going on” in the pandemic right now.

The data I have seen seem complex and difficult to interpret. The statistics involve different age groups, geographical locations, and vaccination status.

But I came across some graphs on-line that seemed significant. So I tracked the data to a regularly-updated Public Health England (PHE) surveillance report for the 4 weeks up to 10th October 2021 (Link). I then reproduced the graphs from the tables therein.

The charts show rates of…

  • positive COVID-19 cases,
  • hospitalisations, and
  • deaths,

…versus age group, categorised according to vaccination status. Note that these are rates per 100,000 people, not absolute numbers.

CLARIFICATION added on 17 October.

In each age group, the two rates shown are:

  • the number of cases, admissions or deaths per 100,000 vaccinated people and
  • the number of cases, admissions or deaths per 100,000 unvaccinated people.

They are NOT the number of cases, admissions or deaths per 100,000 members of the population in that age group.

I think they tell a story.

Click on the figure for a larger version.

Deaths

As has been the case throughout the pandemic, age is the primary risk factor.

This data tells us that in any age group, being un-vaccinated is typically 4 times more dangerous.

The risk ratio is worst in the 50-59 year-old age group where the rates of death amongst the un-vaccinated are more than 8 times higher.

Note: this death rate is affected by both the number of people infected in each age group and their risk of death. The high risk ratio in this age group is likely to be because these people are more likely to be still working, unlike people aged over 60. 

It’s also important to note that amongst the older age groups most people are double-vaccinated – more than 80% of the over 50’s are double-vaccinated.

Actual deaths in the under 18 age group are sadly not zero. Over the four weeks of coverage, the tables record the deaths of 3 unvaccinated youths, and 1 who had only recently had a single shot.

Hospitalisations

Click on the figure for a larger version.

Hospitalisation data show that age is again the primary risk factor – but now even younger people are being affected.

Actual admissions in the under 18 age group were 408, of whom all but 12 were un-vaccinated.

Taking the over-50’s all together, there were 3360 hospitalisations – 660 of whom had not received a double dose. So around 2700 had been double-vaccinated. This ratio (2700/660) is around 4.1, not far off the ratio of the number of double-vaccinated people to unvaccinated people.

This seems to indicate that the vaccines have only a partial ability to prevent illness serious enough to warrant hospitalisation.

Cases

Click on the figure for a larger version.

The ‘case data’ show a striking contrast with the hospitalisation and death data. This data shows that the epidemic is spreading predominantly amongst young people.

It is also striking that amongst those older than 30, the case rates-per-100,000, are higher amongst the doubly-vaccinated than amongst the un-vaccinated.

This effect arises because (a) even double-vaccination does not fully protect against infection and (b) there are many more doubly-vaccinated people than un-vaccinated people.

This seems to indicate that the vaccines do not offer strong protection against catching COVID-19.

And so the story is…

I think the COVID-19 epidemic is being kept going by high infection rates amongst younger people – presumably in schools.

Schools – presumably – form infection hotspots through which pupils and support staff infect people in the wider community.

Double-vaccination does not protect against infection, but it does seem to reduce the rates at which infections warrant hospitalisation, and is highly – but not perfectly – effective at preventing death.

So what will happen next?

The future is amongst the most difficult things to predict. But given the Government’s laissez-faire policy, it is hard to imagine that they will not allow the epidemic to continue to infect everyone it can possibly infect.

And some fraction of those people – between 0.1% and 1% – will die. This probably amounts to tens of thousands more deaths over the coming winter.

The only thing which I can see that might cause the Government to think otherwise would be if the Health Service became overwhelmed.

Personally

Personally, I find this data deeply depressing.

This data speaks of an ongoing crisis, killing more than 100 people each day. But a crisis which the Government seems to refuse to acknowledge.

Having reflected on this data, I (double-vaccinated and aged 61) will be taking even more care than I have been up to this point.

And if you have not yet been vaccinated…

2 Responses to “COVID-19: Wave#3: The Effect of Vaccines”

  1. Steven Judge Says:

    Hello Michael – as always, thank you for your thoughtful analysis of the data. France has kept precautions such as social distancing in place, the numbers speak for themselves. I’m also being even more cautious now, you are not alone.

    • protonsforbreakfast Says:

      Steven: Hello. I trust you are well.

      I think the situation in the UK is the result of late vaccination of teenagers, inadequate precautions in schools, and an abandonment of restrictions more generally.

      All these were avoidable choices made by a government which is at best indifferent to the damage and death caused, and at worst…

      Take Care

      M

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