Over-80s Covid deaths have fallen by more than 90 per cent since the peak of the second wave in England and Wales, official figures revealed today in yet more proof that the vaccines are working.
Office for National Statistics data showed 379 fatalities were linked to the virus in the most elderly group in the week ending March 26 — compared to 5,354 during the darkest period of January.
Deaths for those aged 75-79 dropped 93.4 per cent over the same period, compared with falls of 92.4 per cent among those aged 70-74, 90.8 per cent for those aged 65-69 and 83.7 per cent for those aged 60-64.
Experts today said the promising figures could be pinned on the UK’s successful vaccine roll-out, with there now being a greater proportion of Covid-related deaths in younger people than during the second wave. Around 14 per cent of all Covid victims in the most recent week were under the age of 60. For comparison, the figure was around 6 per cent last autumn.
Everyone over 60 has been offered at least one dose of the Covid vaccine in England and Wales, and Department of Health figures show more than 31million Britons — or three in five adults — have received a jab.
The figures come after experts behind a major surveillance study today claimed vaccines were ‘breaking the link’ between cases and deaths, saying Covid fatalities were falling as infections plateaued — a trend that was not seen during either the first or second wave.
ONS statistics also revealed the number of deaths linked to Covid fell by a quarter in the final week of March, after 719 were recorded compared to 963 in the previous seven-day spell.
And fatalities from all causes — including dementia and heart disease — remained below the five-year average for the third week in a row. Experts warned they would drop below the number expected because the pandemic had caused thousands of people to die early.
Scientists also said Covid vaccines now appeared to be breaking the link between someone catching the virus (black line) and hospitalisations (top red line) and deaths (bottom red line)
Matt Hancock insists UK has ‘more than enough’ Pfizer and Moderna jabs to offer under-30s instead of AstraZeneca
Health Secretary Matt Hancock today launched a media blitz to reassure the public over the safety of the AstraZeneca vaccine as he insisted the nation’s vaccination drive remains on course to offer all UK adults a jab by the end of July.
Mr Hancock said a decision by UK health chiefs to rule the AstraZeneca jab should not be given to Britons under the age of 30 as experts continue to investigate its link to rare blood clots showed ‘the safety system is working because the regulators can spot even this extremely rare event’.
He said ‘people can take confidence that we have a system that we are extremely careful on the safety front’ but he insisted that ‘when you get the call, get the jab’.
The Government’s vaccine advisory group yesterday ruled that people aged between 18 and 29 should be offered an alternative to AstraZeneca’s vaccine.
Mr Hancock said the UK has ‘more than enough’ Pfizer and Moderna jabs to cover all of the people in that age group who are yet to receive a vaccination – approximately 8.5million.
He said ‘all three vaccines that are in use in the UK are safe and they are safe at all ages’ and that there is simply a ‘preference for the under-30s, if they want to have the Pfizer of Moderna jab instead then they can’.
The comments came after a series of Government figures, opposition politicians and medical experts rushed to shore up confidence in the vaccine programme amid fears the AstraZeneca decision could damage the public’s faith in the jab.
Boris Johnson tweeted that the British-made vaccine was ‘safe’ and that the benefits far outweighed the risks for the vast majority of adults, while Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said he was ‘looking forward’ to getting his second dose.
A review by the drugs watchdog the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) found that by the end of March, 79 out of 20million Britons vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine had suffered blood clots in the brain or arteries, a rate of about one in 250,000. Nineteen of the cases died and three were under the age of 30.
Care home residents fatalities linked to the virus also fell by almost a quarter in the last two weeks of March, dropping from 195 to 150, and deaths remained below average for the sixth week in a row.
The ONS weekly report is compiled after statisticians leaf through mountains of death certificates to identify all those linked to the virus, meaning their estimates lag behind by about two weeks.
The Department of Health, on the other hand, publishes daily estimates of Covid deaths based on figures submitted by hospitals and other healthcare providers – but it is thought these do not capture all fatalities linked to the virus.
When the ONS figures were broken down by age, they showed over-80s who are most at risk of hospitalisation and death if they catch the virus have seen their fatalities drop by 92 per cent since the peak of the second wave.
For those aged 75 to 79, figures indicated deaths had dipped by 92 per cent since mid-January (from 1,110 to 77 Covid deaths) and among 70 to 74-year-olds they fell by 92 per cent (806 to 61).
Similarly sharp declines were also recorded among 65 to 69-year-olds where they fell by 89 per cent (521 to 56), among those aged 60 to 64 by 82 per cent dip (377 to 65) and those aged 55 to 59 by 87 per cent (257 to 33).
For 50 to 54-year-olds they fell by 70 per cent (134 to 39), for 45 to 49-year-olds by 84 per cent (90 to 14) and among 40 to 44-year-olds by 93 per cent (45 to 3).
The drops in Covid deaths were not calculated for younger age groups because the risk they face from the virus is so low very few fatalities have been recorded.
Vaccines are being rolled out to everyone aged between 50 and 54 in England after the NHS successfully offered a first dose to all those in older age groups and the top priority groups.
In Wales shots are now being offered to the over-40s, after health authorities met their target of getting jabs to older people and priority groups before mid-April.
In a major boost to the country’s vaccine drive, the Moderna Covid vaccine was dished out in the UK for the first time yesterday after Wales expanded its roll-out.
Britain has ordered 17million doses – enough for 8.5million people – but these are expected to be reserved for the under-30s after the regulator said this age group should be offered an alternative to the AstraZeneca jab.
It comes after Imperial College London epidemiologists found while Covid infections appeared to have levelled off in early April, fatalities linked to the virus were still falling — which would not have been expected during the first or second wave. They said this signalled how the successful vaccine roll-out may already be beating the virus.
They modelled their Covid infection rate estimates onto official tallies of deaths and hospitalisations linked to the virus to get the results, revealing that while there was a ‘clear association’ during the first wave but these appeared to have diverged from January – as the roll-out sped up.
Professor Steven Riley, an infectious disease modeller involved in the study, said: ‘From September onwards we get this really nice agreement between hospitalisations and deaths and underlying infections.
‘But the thing we are reporting today is if you look at this pattern from January onwards you’re seeing a pretty consistent divergence.
‘We think this is a signal of how the vaccination programme is breaking the previously strong link between the pattern of infections and the pattern of deaths and hospitalisations.
He added on Times Radio: ‘We’re getting fewer deaths now than before we started the vaccine campaign.
‘The lockdown is certainly contributing to the drop in infections that we’re also reporting today, that’s for sure, but it’s unlikely that that link between infections and deaths is being driven solely by the lockdown.’