Coronavirus: When WILL vaccinations free Britain from lockdown?


Britain is on course to vaccinate all over-50s by April 5 at the current rate of vaccination, MailOnline estimates reveal as debate rages through Government about when lockdown can be lifted.

The protection offered by one dose of coronavirus vaccine takes two to three weeks to kick in, the latest evidence suggests, meaning the UK would be on track for measures to be lifted at the end of April after ministers, Chris Whitty and and SAGE scientists signalled that they want all over-50s to get an injection before society reopens.

However, if the UK vaccine drive accelerates from last week’s daily average of 345,000 people per day and is able to sustain its maximum rate of 600,000 doses a day, then the target could be hit by mid-March.

Anti-lockdown Tory MPs are pushing for measures to be released sooner, when the 15million most vulnerable people are vaccinated by mid-February. Vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi today said the NHS is on track to hit this target and claimed that nine out of 10 over-75s have already been vaccinated.

Experts estimate that the effects of mass vaccination could start to show through in falling numbers of people being admitted to hospital in mid-February, and then significantly fewer people dying from March. They said there would also be an impact on infections, perhaps sooner, but this will be less noticeable. One researcher, Leeds University’s Professor Daniel Howdon, said there may already be some signs of death rates declining in the elderly.

But modelling handed to SAGE in January predicted that easing restrictions from mid-February will cause a third wave of coronavirus that will peak at more than 1,000 deaths a day.

However, while the rollout is expected to speed up, there is still a ‘bumpy’ supply chain and ministers insist ‘our limiting factor remains supply’, which Mr Zahawi said today was ‘becoming more stable’. Other barriers to full speed vaccination may be the fact that only some GP surgeries are working on Sundays, and people will start to need second doses from early March, which will limit the numbers of unique people who can be reached.

At least one more vaccine should also come into use in March – Moderna’s – with the possibility of Johnson & Johnson and Novavax jabs also getting approval before then. 

At a rate of 345,000 first doses per day – the current average – it will take until February 17 to vaccinate all of the top four priority groups, and then the remaining 17million over-50s and at-risk people could be reached in 49 days, or seven weeks, by April 7. At an average rate of 600,000 per day from today onwards – something the NHS has shown itself to be capable of, but which would require a lot of things to go right such as constant supplies, perfect organisation and even faster rates as people start to need second doses from mid-March – the first four groups could be done by Februayr 11 and all over-50s by March 12

At a rate of 345,000 first doses per day – the current average – it will take until February 17 to vaccinate all of the top four priority groups, and then the remaining 17million over-50s and at-risk people could be reached in 49 days, or seven weeks, by April 7. At an average rate of 600,000 per day from today onwards – something the NHS has shown itself to be capable of, but which would require a lot of things to go right such as constant supplies, perfect organisation and even faster rates as people start to need second doses from mid-March – the first four groups could be done by Februayr 11 and all over-50s by March 12

A graph shared on Twitter by Professor Daniel Howdon, a health economist at the University of Leeds, showed how the death rate among 85 to 89-year-old people started declining in January even when the outbreak was around its peak, which he said could be linked to vaccine coverage

A graph shared on Twitter by Professor Daniel Howdon, a health economist at the University of Leeds, showed how the death rate among 85 to 89-year-old people started declining in January even when the outbreak was around its peak, which he said could be linked to vaccine coverage

The Covid-19 Actuaries Response Group, an organisation of volunteer experts, said in January that the effects of the UK's mass vaccine rollout would start to be seen in falling hospital admissions and deaths from mid-February, and then in reduced death rates from March. There would also be a drop in infection rates but this will be less noticeable. The research was produced before the vaccine programme hit its current speed, on January 11

The Covid-19 Actuaries Response Group, an organisation of volunteer experts, said in January that the effects of the UK’s mass vaccine rollout would start to be seen in falling hospital admissions and deaths from mid-February, and then in reduced death rates from March. There would also be a drop in infection rates but this will be less noticeable. The research was produced before the vaccine programme hit its current speed, on January 11

University of Warwick research published in January, before the current vaccination data became available, suggested that if a vaccine could prevent 65% of transmission, as Oxford now says its vaccine does, the country's death rate could be kept to the low hundreds per day or fewer from late March onwards if the rule of six is kept in place. The model is based on a large majority of the population having a vaccine with that level of effectiveness

University of Warwick research published in January, before the current vaccination data became available, suggested that if a vaccine could prevent 65% of transmission, as Oxford now says its vaccine does, the country’s death rate could be kept to the low hundreds per day or fewer from late March onwards if the rule of six is kept in place. The model is based on a large majority of the population having a vaccine with that level of effectiveness

The current rate of the NHS’s vaccination programme shows it is on target to hit its target of reaching the 15million most vulnerable people by mid-February. Last week’s rate means it needs just two more weeks to get there.

These people include everyone over the age of 70 as well as NHS and social care workers, and those with serious long-term health conditions that put them at a high risk of dying if they catch Covid-19.

Although they are the number one priority for the Government, there are now concerns that vaccinating them alone will not be enough to end the brutal national lockdown. 

There are 17million people over the age of 50 who make up priority groups four to nine and who will need to be reached once the top four priority groups have been done.

At a rate of 345,000 first doses per day – last week’s average – this would take 49 days, or seven weeks. From February 17 that would mean they could all be reached by April 7.

At an average rate of 600,000 per day from today onwards – something the NHS has shown itself to be capable of, but which would require a lot of things to go right such as constant supplies, perfect organisation and even faster rates as people start to need second doses from mid-March – the first four groups could be done by February 11.

Then it would take just 29 days to reach the 17million outstanding over-50s and high-risk people; four weeks and a day, ending on March 12.

After the most at-risk groups have been vaccinated, the Government plans to offer jabs to everyone aged 18 and over in the UK. There will be around 21million of them left by this point, according to the JCVI.

SIGN OF DEATH RATES STARTING TO DECLINE IN OVER-80S, SCIENTIST CLAIMS 

Professor Daniel Howdon, a health economist at the University of Leeds, revealed on Twitter that the fatality rate among over-80s appears to be falling fast in the wake of the vaccination programme.

He said: ‘All 80+ groups are showing quite big (~25%) falls in the CFR [case fatality ratio] vs 75-79 group. All very tentative for now but I think of interest.’

Professor Howdon, using Public Health England data, noted that the proportion of Covid-positive people over the age of 90 who were dying appeared to have dropped from 46.8 per cent at January’s peak to 34.7 per cent in the most recent week.

In 85 to 89-year-olds it fell from 40.6 per cent to 30.5 per cent, he said, in 80 to 84-year-olds it dropped from 32.9 to 24.4 per cent, and in 75 to 79-year-olds from 20.6 to 17.6 per cent.

A graph shared by Professor Howdon showed how the death rate among 85 to 89-year-old people started declining in January even when the outbreak was around its peak, which he said could be linked to vaccine coverage

A graph shared by Professor Howdon showed how the death rate among 85 to 89-year-old people started declining in January even when the outbreak was around its peak, which he said could be linked to vaccine coverage

He said that less pressure on hospitals or longer lags between people catching the virus and dying could account for these effects but also suggested it was ‘not too unreasonable’ to expect to see an effect from vaccines.

Over-80s have been getting vaccinated since December 8, with more than 80 per cent of them now having had a first dose.

Professor Howdon added he was ‘going to keep an eye on it. Even if this isn’t an effect now, if vaccination reduces deaths more than cases then we should see one soon enough.’

At the realistic 345,000-per-day rate this could be achieved in 61 days – from April 7 this would take until June 7.

At the hyper-fast 600,000 per day – which would likely be impossible by this point because millions of people would be having their second doses, soaking up most of the NHS’s daily capacity – it would take 35 days. From March 12, this would end on April 16. 

The estimates are based on an unlikely 100 per cent uptake rate and on the country having a big enough supply to cope with the number of doses needed each day which, from March, will include second doses for people who got their first jab at the start of the programme. 

Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, said at a Downing Street press conference last night that it now looks as though all over-50s will need to be immunised in order to stop hospitals loading up with Covid patients again.

He said: ‘If you look at the situation for people that have gone into hospital only 54 per cent of all the people who go into hospital are over that age [70].

‘So what this means is that once we vaccinated down to 70 and above – plus those who care for them, frontline NHS staff and frontline care workers – we should significantly reduce the number of deaths.

‘But we will reduce by a much smaller number the number of people going into hospital…

‘If we vaccinate all the way down to the people over 50, and those who have actually got pre-existing health conditions, you then get through virtually all the people who have a high chance of dying.

‘So this is around 98 per cent of those who die are in that group. Importantly around 80 per cent, just over 80 per cent of all of those who go into hospital.’

Professor Whitty added: ‘So the first wave which is the aim is to complete on the 15th of February we would expect a situation where we can stop a very high proportion of the deaths but rather a smaller proportion of the pressure on the NHS – those very large numbers in hospital.

‘As you go onto the next wave, down to those over 50 we have further in roads into reducing deaths and also significantly reduce the pressure on the NHS.’ 

Experts have warned that lockdown must not be lifted too soon or an uncontrollable third wave of Covid could begin and kill thousands more people, smashing through efforts to protect the country with vaccines.

Warwick University experts on the Government’s SAGE committee said in a paper published last week that easing restrictions too soon could case deaths to spike back above 1,000 per day, even with effective vaccines in play.

They explained that even though the vaccines we have appear to work very well, not everyone can or will accept the jab, and no vaccine can ever protect 100 per cent of the people who do get it. 

People who couldn’t be vaccinated for medical reasons – those who have an extremely weak immune system, for example – will not be protected, and neither will people who turned the jab down, or those in the proportion of people who it fails to protect. A 95 per cent effective vaccine, for example, would still allow five out of 100 people to get Covid-19.

The discovery that Oxford’s vaccine appears to cut the risk of someone catching coronavirus and passing it on by two thirds is promising and suggests it could slash transmission even between people with mild symptoms or none, which would dampen a third wave.

OXFORD JAB CUTTING TRANSMISSION ‘COULD SAVE TENS OF THOUSANDS OF LIVES’

Oxford’s Covid vaccine could save tens of thousands of lives because it can cut the likelihood of catching coronavirus and passing it on by around two thirds, scientists say.

Modelling produced by SAGE members from Warwick University predicted that more than 150,000 more people could die in 2021 if lockdown rules were lifted in March or April and vaccines did not stop people from spreading the virus.

But with a 60 per cent infection-blocking capability – slightly lower than the 67 per cent that Oxford claims its vaccine is capable of – this could be halved, saving tens of thousands of lives.

This is critical because uptake will not be 100 per cent and not everyone who gets the vaccine will be protected by it, meaning the virus will still be a danger to some.

Lifting lockdown after vaccinating people with jabs that don’t stop the spread, the Warwick experts warned, would lead to ‘an uncontrolled wave of infection in which only those successfully immunised will escape.’

Research published in January by the University of Warwick suggested that if a vaccine could prevent 65% of transmission, as Oxford now says its vaccine does, the country's death rate could be kept to the low hundreds per day or fewer from late March onwards if the rule of six is kept in place. The model is based on a large majority of the population having a vaccine with that level of effectiveness

Research published in January by the University of Warwick suggested that if a vaccine could prevent 65% of transmission, as Oxford now says its vaccine does, the country’s death rate could be kept to the low hundreds per day or fewer from late March onwards if the rule of six is kept in place. The model is based on a large majority of the population having a vaccine with that level of effectiveness

And even doing so with the Oxford vaccine rolled out to millions of people could still lead to a spike of 1,500 deaths per day if lockdown was lifted in February in exchange for the rule of six, or 2,000 per day if lockdown ends completely in July. 

Looking at how the daily death counts could change over the course of 2021, the experts found that only vaccines blocking 85 per cent of infections, and a gradual release of lockdown rules over the course of the year, would stop thousands more from dying.

Jabs that block 60 per cent of infections might still allow the peak of daily deaths to hit 2,000 per day if lockdown was lifted gradually but completely from February to August, they found. The peak would likely come in September.

The daily death count would be closer to 2,500 with vaccines that didn’t block infections, or around 700 for ones that blocked 85 per cent. Those peaks would be earlier, in the summer.

On easing lockdown over the course of the entire year, into around December 2021, would lead to a peak of just under 1,500 deaths per day for the 60 per cent infection-blocking jab, with the peak in January 2022.

But the Warwick experts, in research produced before the vaccination programme hit its current levels of success, warned that at least 50,000 people are likely to die in 2021 and this could be much higher if rules are lifted too soon. 

The wrote in their paper: ‘Even maintaining [early September] levels of NPI [non-pharmaceutical interventions; social distancing rules] control and having a highly efficacious vaccine we estimate over fifty thousand deaths are likely to occur from January 2021 due to the slow decline in cases from its current high level.

‘Early relaxation of control measures or low infection efficacy can lead to a pronounced subsequent wave of infection. 

‘If we wish to completely lift all restrictions once both phases of the vaccination campaign are complete, we predict a substantial outbreak with a large number of associated deaths. 

‘When the vaccine is not infection blocking, removing NPIs triggers an uncontrolled wave of infection in which only those successfully immunised will escape.’

They predicted that between 99,000 and 123,000 more people could die in 2021 if lockdown and social distancing come to an end, even in an ‘optimistic’ vaccine scenario.

In less gloomy news, however, some experts claim they are already starting to see the effects of vaccination in the death rates of the most elderly people in the country.

Professor Daniel Howdon, a health economist at the University of Leeds, revealed on Twitter that the fatality rate among over-80s appears to be falling fast in the wake of the vaccination programme.

He said: ‘All 80+ groups are showing quite big (~25%) falls in the CFR [case fatality ratio] vs 75-79 group. All very tentative for now but I think of interest.’

Professor Howdon, using Public Health England data, noted that the proportion of Covid-positive people over the age of 90 who were dying appeared to have dropped from 46.8 per cent at January’s peak to 34.7 per cent in the most recent week.

In 85 to 89-year-olds it fell from 40.6 per cent to 30.5 per cent, he said, in 80 to 84-year-olds it dropped from 32.9 to 24.4 per cent, and in 75 to 79-year-olds from 20.6 to 17.6 per cent. 

He said that less pressure on hospitals or longer lags between people catching the virus and dying could account for these effects but also suggested it was ‘not too unreasonable’ to expect to see an effect from vaccines.

Professor Howdon added he was ‘going to keep an eye on it. Even if this isn’t an effect now, if vaccination reduces deaths more than cases then we should see one soon enough.’

Tory anger is mounting over ‘goalpost shifting’ on lockdown today as ministers and scientists suggested all over-50s should get vaccines before any ‘significant’ easing.

Pressure is growing on Boris Johnson to commit to a major relaxation of the draconian measures within weeks, after the UK’s rollout of jabs hit the milestone of 10million people covered.

But there is alarm that the bar for allowing the economy to get back up and running is being lifted, with dire warnings about the threat of mutant coronavirus added to concerns about the strain on the NHS.

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi appeared to indicate this morning that the government is looking at the top nine risk categories – around 32million people – as the trigger point for a widespread downgrading of measures. So far the PM has only said that he will unveil a route map out of lockdown on February 22, after the first four most vulnerable groups have been covered.

Mr Zahawi refused to give a date for when the nine categories in phase one of the rollout will be complete.

BENEFITS OF VACCINE SCHEME COULD SHOW WITHIN WEEKS AND DEATHS ‘COULD DROP 90% BY MID-MARCH’

Experts on the Covid-19 Actuaries Response Group of volunteers say that the effects of the Covid vaccine programme could start to be seen within weeks.

The number of people being admitted to hospital with Covid-19 and dying of it could begin to fall from mid-February, they predicted, and then the numbers of people dying could begin to come down from early March.

They said: ‘We know from the medical trial data that it is possible to be infected up to two weeks after the first shot.’

And it may now only take a couple more weeks for the effects of mass vaccination to show through in data. Now that more than 10million have had a vaccine – one in every five adults in the UK – and around half of them were vaccinated two weeks ago so now have protection against Covid, there may be enough coverage to impact on the spread of the virus and rates of serious illness.  

The report published by the Actuaries Response Group estimated that vaccination would impact data showing cases after 20 days (although this would be a small impact because the numbers are much larger), for hospitalisations it would show after 26 days, for hospital deaths 34 days and for officially recorded deaths, 47 days.

It said: ‘There are many variables which will impact the actual benefits that we see as the vaccine rolls out, most notably the speed of the roll-out, but also the vaccine effectiveness and the take-up in the various groups offered the vaccine. 

‘The other factor is the overall infectivity in the country – all of the results we show are expressed as proportional reductions from any given starting point, rather than as absolute figures. 

‘Nevertheless, if the programme goes reasonably to plan it can be expected that there will be an 85 per cent to 90 per cent reduction in Covid-19 deaths by the middle of March, although the reporting of this will take a little longer to emerge completely.’ 

Meanwhile, SAGE member Professor Andrew Hayward gave a similar message as he said there could be a ‘significant return to normality’ after all over-50s are vaccinated.

‘Once the most vulnerable people, particularly those over 50 and those with chronic illnesses, are vaccinated then yes I think we can see a significant return to normality,’ he said.

However, Professor Hayward said he still hoped the UK will be ‘more or less back to normal for the summer’.

There were claims today that Chancellor Rishi Sunak is again leading calls within Cabinet for lockdown to be eased as early as possible – in contrast to the more cautious tone adopted by Mr Johnson recently.

A supporter of Mr Sunak told the Telegraph: ‘Rishi is concerned that the scientists have been moving the goalposts in recent weeks. It’s no longer just about hospitalisations and protecting the NHS but cases and case numbers.’

They said Mr Sunak was adamant this third national squeeze must be the final lockdown and heralded it a ‘fat lady sings moment’ – the point at which Britain draws a line under a cycle of lockdowns for good.

Treasury sources played down the reports this morning, insisting those are ‘not things he has said’. But they were hailed by lockdown-sceptic Tory MPs, who said he was ‘quite right’.

Asked on Today whether the government was shifting the goalposts on when lockdown can ease, Mr Zahawi said: ‘I think you’ve got to make sure your vaccination programme has protected the top nine categories in phase one…’

He reiterated that the PM will set out a roadmap and the intention is for restrictions to loosen ‘gradually’ from March 8, starting with schools.

Mr Zahawi declined to give a date for when the first nine groups in the priority list will have received their vaccine, but said people could ‘do the maths’.

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Nadhim Zahawi said: ‘We will set out our target (for vaccinating groups 5-9) after we have hit our February 15 target.

‘But you can do the maths. We did 600,000 in a single day – the deployment infrastructure that we’ve built can do as much vaccines as we get supply, so the limiting factor will be vaccine supply.

‘You can see that in the next 10 or so days, we’ve got to do another almost touching five million and so if we keep that rate up we will very quickly go down the list of the top nine.’

Pressed on whether that meant it would take another 35 days from February 15 to have jabbed all 31 million people in the first nine cohorts, Mr Zahawi replied: ‘That assumes the supply, so I don’t want to commit to a date without going through it with a very fine toothcomb with the whole team, because our limiting factor is the supply of vaccines ultimately.

‘With any manufacturing process, especially one that is new, there are challenges around that, as we’ve seen in Europe and as we saw in the early days in the UK as well.’

ONLY SOME SURGERIES OFFER VACCINES SEVEN DAYS A WEEK

By Connor Boyd, Assistant Health Editor for MailOnline

Boris Johnson tonight praised the NHS for its ‘colossal’ effort to vaccinate 10million Brits against Covid amid calls for No10 to get a grip on the ‘lackadaisical approach’ to dishing out jabs on Sundays.

Heralding the achievement in a Downing Street press conference, the Prime Minister thanked everyone involved in the roll-out, from scientists to delivery drivers to pharmacists. He said: ‘And it is thanks to their effort — the most colossal in the history of our National Health Service — that we have today passed the milestone.’

With the country jabbing an average 400,000 people every day, the UK is well on track to hitting its goal of giving the first vaccine dose to the 14million most vulnerable Brits by February 15.

But despite the inoculation drive being an undoubted success with Britain administering more jabs per person than any other country except Israel, a trend has emerged in the figures showing a sharp drop-off in uptake on Sundays. 

For example, last Sunday there were 46 per cent fewer jabs administered compared to the day before — dropping from almost 600,000 to 320,000. The fall was even more pronounced two Sundays ago, on January 24, when half as many jabs were done compared to the Saturday.

Several GPs, who asked not to be named, told MailOnline that a large number of practices shut on Sundays and do not offer appointments – despite No10 insisting the immunisation drive is 24/7 operation. It echoed claims made by Scotland’s national clinical director yesterday who said the closure of surgeries on Sundays was hampering the vaccine rollout north of the border. 

The Royal College of GPs said said family doctors were ‘doing everything they can’ to get the vaccine to those who need it most, with ‘some’ but not all practices providing services seven days a week. 

Economists from the Institute for Economic Affairs told MailOnline that there is ‘no incentive’ for family doctors, who’ve been juggling the vaccine rollout and battling Covid on the frontlines of the second wave, to work seven days a week. It suggested GPs be offered commission on every jab done on a weekend.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock today blamed ‘lumpy supply’ for the Sunday blips in Britain’s coronavirus vaccine rollout and revealed plans to administer jabs through the night were going to be scrapped.  

Asked about the fluctuations during a round of interviews this morning, Mr Hancock claimed the issue was being caused by patchy deliveries of supplies. He told LBC Radio: ‘The answer is absolutely about supply… The supply is lumpy and as soon as a big shipment comes in we deliver it to the front line and they get it out as fast as we can.’   

The Adam Smith think-tank told MailOnline the blips were a ‘worrying sign of lost priorities’. Deputy director Matt Kilcoyne added: ‘We need to make sure that we are firing on all cylinders at every single point, every single day. 

‘This is the most important issue in politics right now and the fact that we are failing to ramp up right across the week is a worrying sign of lost priorities of everybody who is involved in the pandemic.’ 

Mr Hancock also suggested No10 was purposefully masking data on its vaccine supplies, adding: ‘We don’t publish the supply figures and the reason we don’t is that they move around.’ 

Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran, who chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Coronavirus, slammed Mr Hancock for hiding the figures. ‘We need transparency from the Government about vaccine supply and how that is affecting the rate at which people can get their jabs,’ she told MailOnline.

‘It’s vital that we take advantage of every hour of every day to vaccinate as many people as possible, and any issues with vaccinations on Sundays must be explored and fixed by the Government.’



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Written by Bourbiza Mohamed

A technology enthusiast and a passionate writer in the field of information technology, cyber security, and blockchain

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