Covid antibody rates go up across UK as vaccines take hold

Impact of vaccine rollout can be seen in increased antibody numbers across elderly population, ONS statisticians say

Joe Middleton
Tuesday 16 February 2021 19:50
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The number of people carrying Covid-19 antibodies has increased across the UK, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has said as vaccinations across elderly and at-risk populations starts to show in the agency’s data.

The ONS estimates one in five adults in England would have tested positive for at least some of the antibodies necessary to tackle the virus in a blood test across the 28 days up to 1 February, compared to one in seven in Wales and Northern Ireland, and one in nine in Scotland.

While the statistics agency has carried out antibody tests throughout the UK’s outbreak to track the spread of the virus by seeing how many people have developed an immune response, the data now includes those who have built up resistance after having received a vaccination.

In England, those 80 years old and over were the most likely to present with antibodies, with positive results seen in 40.9 per cent of those tested – a figure experts believe reflects the impact of the vaccine rollout that surpassed the 15 million jab milestone on Sunday.

Esther Sutherland, principal statistician for the Covid-19 Infection Survey, said: “Antibody positivity rates have increased across all four nations and the effects of the vaccination programmes have begun to appear, especially in the older age groups.

“In England those aged 80 and over currently have the highest percentage of antibody positivity, most likely due to the high vaccination rate in this group.

“In Wales and Scotland those aged 16 to 24 years old have the highest percentage and in Northern Ireland it’s in 25 to 34-year-olds.

“We would expect younger groups to have high levels of antibody positivity after the period of high infection rates we have seen in the last few months.”

The ONS said that there was “substantial variation” in antibody positivity between regions in England.

In London almost one in four people are estimated to have antibodies (24.8 per cent) compared to almost one in eight in the south west (11.6 per cent).

The data also showed varying rates of antibody positivity in the elderly across the four nations – though researchers cautioned the figures only relate to those living in private households, and so will not reflect the prevalence of the virus-tackling proteins among care home residents.

It comes as the number of weekly registered deaths related to the virus in England and Wales falls for the first time since Christmas.

In the week ending 5 February, 7,320 fatalities were recorded where Covid-19 was noted on the death certificate, the ONS said – a fall of 1,113 deaths (13.1 per cent) compared to the previous week.

The last time deaths fell according to the ONS measure was the week ending 25 December – a period that included a bank holiday day, which typically impacts data collection related to Covid-19.

With PA

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