Kate Andrews

Can we see the vaccine effect?

Can we see the vaccine effect?
(Photo by Daniel Leal-Olivia/AFP via Getty Images)
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Britain’s Covid data is moving in the right direction. Today’s update from the Office for National Statistics confirms this on one of the most critical measures: excess deaths. For the second consecutive week, deaths in England and Wales are below the five-year average. In the latest week ending 19 March, there were 10,311 registered deaths — 676 fewer deaths than the week before and down 8 per cent on the average.

The good news doesn’t stop there. Not only are deaths down (more than 90 per cent below the peak of the latest wave) but the vaccine factor is also showing its effect. According to the ONS’s latest antibody survey, 55 per cent of people in England — that is, one in two residents — were estimated to have antibodies in the 28 days leading up to the 14 March. While some of those people will have recovered from the virus, the drastic rise in antibody prevalence as infection rates plummet is a result of the vaccine rollout. In the previous update, leading up to 3 March, one in three people, or 35 per cent of the population, tested positive.

Still, the Prime Minister’s pledge to follow ‘data, not dates’ does not seem to apply to accelerations of his roadmap out of lockdown. As Fraser noted in his Telegraph column last week, the data in front of MPs before they voted to renew the Coronavirus Act was strong enough to declare that the major threat of this wave had passed — even if politicians still wanted to take a cautious approach to reopening. Since the Act has passed (with an overwhelming majority) data showing that the virus is both under control and being tackled by the vaccine has only become stronger.