Vaccinated people are dying from the Delta variant, but in small numbers, UK data shows
- The UK has recorded a total of 117 deaths in people with the Delta coronavirus variant.
- 50 of them were among people who'd taken 2 doses of vaccines - a reminder the shots are imperfect.
- No fully-vaccinated people under 50 died, and the overall death rate was 0.13%.
- For more stories visit Business Insider.
Of those who were fully vaccinated who caught the Delta variant, 50 died, according to data from Public Health England published on Friday.
The figure represents almost half of the total 117 deaths associated with the variant in the UK, where Delta now represents the overwhelming majority of cases.
But experts argue that this does not undermine what we know about the efficacy of the vaccines, given that the deaths come from age groups at higher risk, and represent a tiny proportion of the 92,029 Delta cases analysed.
92,029 cases of Delta have been confirmed by Public Health England as of June 21, of which 117 ended in death.
109 of the cases were in those over the age of 50. UK officials did not give a more detailed age breakdown, but coronavirus deaths disproportionately affect the very elderly.
117 deaths from 92,029 cases is a death rate of about 0.13%.
"Does this mean the vaccines are ineffective? Far from it," statisticians David Spiegelhalter and Anthony Masters said in an opinion piece published in The Observer newspaper on Sunday. "It's what we would expect from an effective but imperfect vaccine."
The bulk of the UK's vaccination program has been made up of the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines.
Two doses of these vaccines are highly protective against developing symptoms after catching the Delta variant: 88% for the Pfizer vaccine, and 60% for the AstraZeneca vaccine, according to earlier UK data.
But the risk of dying from COVID-19 after being fully vaccinated depends on people's age, Spiegelhalter and Masters said. The older a person is, the more likely they are to die from infection if it breaks through the protection given by the vaccines.
"...someone aged 80 who is fully vaccinated essentially takes on the risk of an unvaccinated person of around 50 - much lower, but still not nothing, and so we can expect some deaths," the statisticians said.
By contrast, the vaccine's efficacy on hospitalization among all age groups is clear.
1,320 were sick enough to spend a night in the hospital after catching the Delta variant. Of those, 190 were fully vaccinated - that is about 14%. 831, or a much higher 63%, were unvaccinated.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Friday that those who are fully vaccinated should continue to follow public health measures to curb the spread of the virus, such as mask-wearing, physical distancing, and respecting correct hand hygiene.
"People cannot feel safe just because they had the two doses. They still need to protect themselves," said Dr. Mariangela Simao, the assistant director-general for access to medicines and health products at the WHO.
Get the best of our site emailed to you every weekday.
Go to the Business Insider front page for more stories.