Nine in 10 young teenagers in UK likely to have Covid-19 antibodies

The presence of antibodies suggests someone has had the infection in the past or has been vaccinated.

Owen Morrison, 15, receives a Covid-19 vaccine from student nurse Anthony McLaughlin at the Glasgow Central Mosque (Jane Barlow/PA)
Owen Morrison, 15, receives a Covid-19 vaccine from student nurse Anthony McLaughlin at the Glasgow Central Mosque (Jane Barlow/PA)

Around nine in 10 young teenagers in the UK are likely to have Covid-19 antibodies, new analysis suggests.

The estimates, which are for children aged 12 to 15, range from 88.0% in Wales to 91.7% in Scotland with 90.9% in England and 90.7% in Northern Ireland.

It is the first time figures have been published for this age group.

The presence of coronavirus antibodies suggests someone has had the infection in the past or has been vaccinated.

It takes between two and three weeks after infection or vaccination for the body to make enough antibodies to fight the virus.

Antibodies then remain in the blood at low levels, although these levels can decline over time to the point where tests can no longer detect them.

The figures have been calculated by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and are based on a sample of blood test results for the week beginning January 3 2022.

The very high level of antibodies among young teenagers reflects both the prevalence of coronavirus in this age group in recent months and also the impact of the vaccination programme.

First doses of Covid-19 vaccine have been available for 12 to 15-year-olds since September 2021, with jabs being offered in schools as well as local vaccination centres.

Second doses are now being rolled out to this age group.

The ONS said said there is a “clear pattern” between vaccination and testing positive for Covid-19 antibodies but “the detection of antibodies alone is not a precise measure of the immunity protection given by vaccination”.

A person’s immune response is affected by a number of factors, including health conditions and age.

Antibody levels are expected to decrease over time “irrespective of vaccination or natural infection”, especially when exposure to the virus is reduced, because our bodies stop making antibodies when they are not needed, the ONS added.

Estimates of Covid-19 antibodies for children aged eight to 11 have also been published for the first time.

These are much lower than the estimates for 12 to 15-year-olds, ranging from 37.9% in Northern Ireland to 60.1% in Scotland, with 58.8% in England and 53.3% in Wales.

Only a very small number of children under 12 are likely to have received any Covid-19 vaccine, with the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) recommending just last month that five to 11-year-olds in clinically vulnerable groups should now be offered two doses, delivered eight weeks apart.

All ONS estimates are for people in private households and are subject to uncertainty, given they are based on samples that are part of the wider population.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Please enter a valid email
Please enter a valid email
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Must be at least 6 characters, include an upper and lower case character and a number
Please enter your first name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
Please enter your last name
Special characters aren’t allowed
Please enter a name between 1 and 40 characters
You must be over 18 years old to register
You must be over 18 years old to register
Opt-out-policy
You can opt-out at any time by signing in to your account to manage your preferences. Each email has a link to unsubscribe.

By clicking ‘Create my account’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Register for free to continue reading

Registration is a free and easy way to support our truly independent journalism

By registering, you will also enjoy limited access to Premium articles, exclusive newsletters, commenting, and virtual events with our leading journalists

Already have an account? sign in

By clicking ‘Register’ you confirm that your data has been entered correctly and you have read and agree to our Terms of use, Cookie policy and Privacy notice.

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy policy and Terms of service apply.

Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in