The ‘extraordinary’ statistic that shows the success of the UK’s vaccine rollout

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DARLINGTON, ENGLAND - MARCH 01: A couple leave after being vaccinated with the AstraZeneca/Oxford University Covid-19 vaccine at the Darlington Arena Vaccination Centre on March 01, 2021 in Darlington, England. The vaccination centre in Darlington is the fourth large Vaccination Centre for the north east region and joins the three Large Vaccination Centres at Newcastle’s Centre for Life, the NHS Nightingale Hospital North East, Sunderland and the Arnison Centre, Durham. These large centres support existing local GP led vaccination services. The Darlington Arena Vaccination Centre will be run by clinical staff, people who have been trained to become vaccinators, administrative staff and a range of volunteers who make sure the service operates as smoothly and safely as possible. As of yesterday, more than 20 million people in the United Kingdom have had at least one dose of a covid-19 vaccine, with nearly 800,000 having two doses. (Photo by Ian Forsyth/Getty Images)
A couple leave the Darlington Arena Vaccination Centre after receiving the Oxford/AstraZeneca COVID jab on 1 March in Darlington, County Durham. (Getty Images)

Coronavirus deaths among people aged 75 and over have been halving every seven days for the past few weeks – a rate that has been branded “extraordinary” by a top statistician.

The sharp drop in fatalities among this age group suggests the UK’s COVID vaccine rollout is already having an impact.

Dr David Speigelhalter, statistics professor at the University of Cambridge, has called the numbers “extraordinary".

Speigelhalter shared government data on Twitter showing that weekly decreases in number of deaths in the 85+ and 75-84 age groups, which have been vaccinated, averaged at 50% and 47% respectively leading up to 23 February.

Read: European country shielded from worst of COVID declares emergency after outbreak of UK variant

The rate of decrease is much lower among younger age groups that have not yet been fully vaccinated. Deaths among those aged 65-74 and under 65 have been decreasing by 41% and 20% respectively, and have even had a recent uptick, according to the figures.

Spiegelhalter said: “For deaths and admissions, big gap opening up now between over and under 65s. For over 75s, deaths each day have been essentially halving every *week*. Extraordinary.”

The figures also show a decrease in hospital admissions among older people.

Daily deaths by age group

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The rate of hospitalisations among those aged 85 and over has decreased by 36%, while the 65-84 age bracket has seen a drop of 31%.

Under-65s have seen a significantly lower rate of decrease, at 18%.

Matt Hancock on Monday reaffirmed the downward trend in deaths and hospitalisations, saying it is a "sign that the vaccine is working."

Speaking at Downing Street, the health secretary said the number of new coronavirus cases was falling.

However, he added that the rate of decline has slowed, urging people to “keep sticking to the rules, let’s not blow it now”.

Hancock also said the number of admissions to hospital was falling faster than that of cases – particularly among the older age groups who were vaccinated first. He added: “This is a sign that the vaccine is working."

Watch: 'Exciting new data' shows effectiveness of vaccines, says Matt Hancock

The health secretary said there was an even clearer sign in the data on deaths with the rate of decline in the older groups faster than in the under-80s.

The data shows the rate of decline is falling much faster compared to the first peak, he added. “This shows, in the real world, across the UK right now that the vaccine is helping both to protect the NHS and to save lives.”

It comes as the UK hit the 20 million vaccine milestone last week – meaning nearly a third of the country’s population have had at least one dose of a COVID jab.

The UK has one of the highest COVID-19 death rates in the world and the government has previously been severely criticised for its response to the pandemic.

But the picture has changed with the vaccine rollout, so far one of the most successful in the world.

The UK became the first country to start administering a fully trialled and tested COVID-19 vaccine to its citizens on 8 December.

The government has since pledged that all adults will be offered a vaccine before the end of July – less than eight months after jabs began.

Initially, this deadline was autumn, which demonstrates the success of Britain’s initiative to date.

England daily hospital admissions by age

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Made with Flourish

The speedier rollout of the vaccine could help ensure lockdown restrictions are lifted by 21 June in line with the government’s roadmap.

However, fears are emerging that this success could be blighted by the arrival of the Brazil variant of coronavirus, which has just been identified in the UK.

Read more:

Brazil COVID variant could spread faster amid vaccine efficacy fears, says chief NHS Test and Trace adviser

Have your say: How concerned are you about COVID variants in the UK?

Dr Susan Hopkins, chief medical adviser to NHS Test and Trace, has warned that the Brazil variant could spread faster around the UK and have an impact on existing COVID-19 vaccines.

Six cases of the P1 variant first detected in the Brazilian city of Manaus have been found in the UK – three in England and three in Scotland.

One of the three in England remains unidentified after they left out their contact details on their COVID-19 test registration card.

Watch: First cases of worrying Manaus variant of Covid-19 found in UK

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