The UK is in a very different place to it was last year, when COVID-19-linked deaths were soaring and people were living under strict lockdown measures. The hugely successful vaccination campaign can be credited for this dramatic change in fortunes. Fully vaccinated people are much less likely to die with COVID-19 than those who aren’t, or have had only one dose, the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show.
However, the vaccines are not a silver-bullet. It is still possible to catch COVID-19 post-vaccination.
What’s more, some people are still at an increased risk of death despite vaccination, although the risk is substantially reduced as a result of vaccination.
That is the key finding of a new British Medical Journal (BMJ) study that sought to map out the characteristics of those most at-risk of COVID-19 mortality post-vaccination.
Researchers deployed a risk prediction algorithm to estimate the risk of COVID-19 related mortality and hospital admission in UK adults after one or two doses of COVID-19 vaccination.
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Adults aged 19-100 years with one or two doses of COVID-19 vaccination between 8 December 2020 and 15 June 2021 were monitored.
The risk prediction algorithm crunched data on COVID-19 vaccination, SARS-CoV-2 (the disease that causes COVID-19) results, hospital admissions, systemic anticancer treatment, radiotherapy, and the national death and cancer registries.
What did the researchers find out?
Of 2031 COVID-19 deaths and 1929 covid-19 hospital admissions logged, 81 deaths and 71 admissions occurred 14 days or more after the second vaccine dose.
The following health conditions were associated with an increased risk of mortality post-vaccination:
- Down’s syndrome
- Sickle cell disease
- Liver cirrhosis
- Neurological conditions
- Parkinson’s disease
- Chronic kidney disease
- Blood cancer
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease
- Coronary heart disease
- Atrial fibrillation
- Heart failure
- Peripheral vascular disease
- Type 2 diabetes.
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A similar pattern of associations was seen for COVID-19 related hospital admissions.
The risk algorithms also included age, sex, ethnic origin, deprivation, body mass index and SARS-CoV-2 infection rate.
Incidence of COVID-19 mortality increased with age and deprivation, male sex, and Indian and Pakistani ethnic origin.
“This population based risk algorithm performed well showing high levels of discrimination for identifying those patients at highest risk of COVID-19 related death and hospital admission after vaccination,” the researchers concluded.
Why you should get vaccinated
Despite the slight risk increase, the benefits of getting vaccinated far outweighs the risks posed by eschewing the vaccine.
The latest ONS figures show that, out of more than 51,000 Covid deaths in England between January and July 2021, only 256 occurred after two doses.
They were mostly people at very high risk from illness from COVID-19.
The figures show the high degree of protection from the vaccines against illness and death, the ONS said.
Some deaths after vaccination were always expected because vaccines are not 100 percent effective, and it takes a couple of weeks after your second dose to build the fullest protection.
Julie Stanborough, from the ONS, said: “Our new analysis shows that, sadly, there have been deaths of people involving COVID-19 despite them being fully vaccinated.
“However, we’ve also found that the risk of a death involving Covid-19 is much lower among people who are fully vaccinated than those who are unvaccinated.”