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expert reaction to new ONS stats on deaths involving COVID-19 by vaccination status, England: deaths occurring between 1 January and 31 October 2021

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) have released new data for the number of deaths from COVID-19 in England in relation to vaccination status.


Prof Peter Openshaw, Professor of Experimental Medicine, Imperial College London, said:

“These data show the great subtlety and depth with which data on vaccination needs to be interpreted.

“The Office for National Statistics has done an analysis of death rates after vaccination, making careful allowance for age and other factors.  Using data from earlier in 2021 (when Delta was the dominant virus), they show that those who had two doses of vaccine are much less likely to die of COVID than those who have not been vaccinated, looking at mortality beyond 3 weeks after the second dose.  The association was almost complete if you look at the February data (99% reduction); by October the reduction was less (78%), but still compatible with a very strong protective effect of vaccination.

“However, this trend could be due to many things: people who got vaccinated may differ from those who chose not to be vaccinated in ways other than age (they may be less healthy, for example), protection against COVID might be due to other factors in addition to vaccination (such as self-isolation in those who are keen to be vaccinated because they regard themselves as vulnerable) and there were changes in virus circulation at different times.  However, looking at the whole period from 1st January to the 31st of October 2021, the age-adjusted risk of death from COVID was reduced by 96% in those who were vaccinated.

“Despite this apparent good news, the ONS is careful to say that this is not a study designed to tell us how effective vaccination is against Delta or how effective it might be against Omicron.  They emphasise that non-COVID-19 mortality is also related to vaccination status, showing the importance of taking into account health and other differences between those who chose to be vaccinated and those who don’t.

“Being a person at the front of the que for vaccines makes you more likely to survive, but the reasons for the association are complex.”



All our previous output on this subject can be seen at this weblink:



Declared interests

Prof Peter Openshaw: “Peter Openshaw has served on scientific advisory boards for Janssen/J&J, Oxford Immunotech, GSK, Nestle and Pfizer in relation to immunity to viruses (fees paid to Imperial College London).”

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