There are many legitimate criticisms to be levelled at the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic response but the vaccine rollout has been an unmitigated success. From early procurement to fast-tracking regulatory approval through the UK’s nimble regulatory body, the UK has zoomed ahead and managed to inoculate a total of 34,346,273 people so far. Crucially, the effort is having its intended effect – cases and deaths have plummeted. Yet there are some developments that are heading in the wrong direction.
A new UK report has found more than 500 people who received their coronavirus jabs have been admitted to hospital with COVID-19.
The study found a total of 526 people were admitted to hospital and 113 people died in what the research team branded “vaccine failures”.
According to the researchers, the patients had all received one dose of the vaccine at least three weeks before they were admitted.
How worried should we be?
The majority of vaccinated people who were admitted to hospital for COVID-19 were probably infected shortly before or around the time of their vaccination, highlighting the importance of maintaining social distancing and understanding that immunity develops over time, the researchers said.
Looking at symptomatic patients, the researchers found that 40 percent of inpatients enrolled in the study developed covid-19 symptoms nought to seven days post-vaccination.
A further 19 percent developed symptoms eight to 14 days post-vaccination.
The average period period for SARS-CoV-2 (the coronavirus that causes COVID-19) to develop was around five days, meaning it is likely that many of these patients were infected before immunity developed.
The report said it was possible that “elderly and vulnerable people who had been shielding may have inadvertently been exposed and infected either through the end-to-end process of vaccination, or shortly after vaccination through behavioural changes where they wrongly assume they are immune.”
However, 12 percent showed symptoms 15 to 21 days after vaccination and 29 percent more than 21 days after vaccination.
These cases could be due to vaccination failure, meaning that the vaccine failed to provide the person with immunity, noted the researchers.
The team emphasised that this was not an unexpected finding, as the vaccines were not 100 percent effective, and that the absolute numbers of vaccinated people being admitted to hospital 21 days after their first dose were “tiny.”
The researchers reported that, among the people who developed symptoms more than 21 days post-vaccination, 113 (of 400) died with COVID-19 (28 percent).
Of these, 82 were in the “frail elderly” group. The report said: “Mortality appears to remain high for people in high risk vaccination tiers who are admitted to hospital with SARS-CoV-2 infection despite vaccination 21 day or more previously.”
Deborah Dunn-Walters, chair of the covid-19 taskforce at the British Society for Immunology and professor of immunology at the University of Surrey, said: “According to this paper, the majority of hospitalisations for COVID-19 post-vaccination take place in this 1-14 day window when protection from the vaccine is not yet fully active.
“This shows the importance of maintaining social distancing, even after vaccination, to minimise the risk of contracting SARS-CoV-2 before your immune protection is active.”
“A very small number of people were hospitalised 21 days post-vaccination, and it’s these people that we need to examine in more detail to understand why the vaccine did not afford them full protection.”
Researchers noted a number of limitations to the report, including that not all admitted patients were enrolled in the study and that vaccinated patients may be over-represented owing to the recruitment strategy.
Additionally, the absolute numbers are very low, and analysis accounting for characteristics such as sex and ethnicity have not yet been performed.
Am I eligible to receive a coronavirus vaccine?
The NHS is currently offering the coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine to people most at risk.
You can get the COVID-19 vaccine if:
- You’re aged 40 or over
- You’ll turn 40 before 1 July 2021.