The lives of around 6,100 older people have been saved in just a few months thanks to the Covid-19 vaccination programme, new analysis shows.
The study, from Public Health England (PHE), said there was now evidence “that the Covid-19 vaccination programme is already having a significant impact on severe Covid-19 disease in England beyond the effect of the national lockdown.”
Experts said the “true value” of the vaccines would become apparent in the future as lives continue to be saved during any further waves of coronavirus in the UK.
With vaccines also thought to have an effect on transmission of the virus, the 6,100 figure could prove to be an underestimate.
The study said around 5,900 deaths had been averted among those aged 80 and over and 200 in those aged 70 to 79.
From December 8 to the end of January, more than four million vaccine doses were given to adults aged 70 and over.
The analysis compared the observed number of deaths with the number that would have been expected if the vaccine had not been given during this time, plus allowing 31 days for the effect of vaccination on deaths to be observed.
Expected deaths with Covid-19 were estimated using real-world data on how effective the vaccines are.
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “Vaccines save lives. This work shows vaccines have already saved over 6,000 lives among the most vulnerable in our society.
“These results give us hope and remind us about the importance of getting the jab as soon as we are eligible.
“Millions of people will soon be getting their second doses – giving them the strongest possible protection against Covid-19.
“I urge everyone to come forward for the vaccine when it’s your turn, to protect yourself and your loves ones.”
Dr Mary Ramsay, PHE head of immunisation, said: “We have shown previously that the Covid-19 vaccinations are hugely effective at stopping people from getting the infection.
“This new analysis calculates how many lives they have saved in the first few months of the vaccine programme, and with every additional day more lives have and will be saved.
“The vaccines have an excellent safety record and I would encourage anyone who is offered a vaccine to take it as soon as possible.
“While the vaccines have a striking impact on mortality, we don’t yet know how much these vaccines will reduce the risk of you passing Covid-19 onto others.
“Even if you have been vaccinated, it is really important that you continue to act like you have the virus, practise good hand hygiene and stay at home.”
Warwick University modelling contained within the PHE report suggests the programme has prevented around 6,600 deaths across all age groups.