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21 October 2021

How Covid-19 vaccines have dramatically reduced deaths

The ratio of deaths to total cases has changed from 3 per cent during the second wave to just 0.3 per cent last week.

By Nicu Calcea

The number of Covid-19 cases in the UK has risen sharply in recent weeks, with Health Secretary Sajid Javid warning that the daily figure could hit 100,000. Despite that, and despite calls from doctors to reimpose some restrictions such as mandatory masks, health minister Edward Argar has insisted the NHS is not yet under “unsustainable pressure”.

The health service has been aided by the UK’s vaccine rollout, with over 86 per cent of Britons aged over 12 having received at least one jab. This has led to a drastic fall in the number of Covid-19 deaths since May this year compared with the second wave of coronavirus in September last year.

Vaccines are preventing thousands of Covid deaths
Weekly new Covid-19 cases and deaths by week since the start of each wave
Weekly cases and deaths by week since the start of the second Covid-19 wave (Sep 7, 2020) and most recent wave (May 24, 2021)
Source: Our World in Data

The chart shows how the Covid-19 case fatality rate – the ratio of deaths to total cases – has changed from 3 per cent in the 21st week of the second wave to just 0.3 per cent last week.

While these are encouraging figures, there is now evidence of waning immunity from the vaccines, meaning the share of cases that end in hospitalisation or death could rise again. Without the threat of restrictions, uptake of booster shots has been much slower than of the initial vaccines. 

Ruth Rankine, the director of primary care at the NHS Confederation, echoed this sentiment: “Whilst people may feel that things are back to normal, you just have to look at the numbers to know that we are still at the height of Covid. My concern is that a lot of the public don’t seem to realise that.”

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