Why vaccinating 13.9 million people by mid-February could prevent nearly 90% of COVID deaths
The i newspaper | Stuart McDonald
The Prime Minister has announced an ambitious plan to offer a vaccination to all over 70s, the clinically extremely vulnerable and all frontline health and care workers by mid-February.
The COVID-19 Actuaries Response Group has analysed deaths in 2020 where COVID-19 was mentioned on the death certificate and found that 88% were people belonging to these groups. Hypothetically if we had, back at the start of 2020, full uptake of a fully effective vaccine then nine out of ten deaths would have been prevented or delayed. This would have reduced the lethality of COVID-19 to a level comparable to seasonal flu.
The actual impact of the, now possible, vaccination rollout will depend on the pace at which it proceeds, uptake of vaccination (particularly among the most vulnerable) and, crucially, the effectiveness of the planned strategy which prioritises a first vaccine dose. If three-quarters take up the vaccine and it is 75% effective then deaths would reduce by half.
Within any universal health care system there are difficult choices to be made between provision to the individual and to the many in order to achieve the greatest impact. Based on our analysis of deaths, we support the priority order determined, which aims to minimise COVID-19 deaths in 2021. Alternative approaches would rely on the vaccine reducing transmission of the virus, something which remains unproven. Our initial analysis of published trial results supports the delaying of the second doses until 12 weeks after the first.
With new and more transmissible variants of the virus, it is a race against time to vaccinate vulnerable groups.