Nearly all over-50s in England now have antibodies to coronavirus, either through vaccination or a previous infection, latest figures suggest.
Public Health England’s (PHE) latest vaccine surveillance report shows that more than 98 per cent of adults aged 50 or over now have some level of protection against the disease.
The figures, which are based on antibody testing of blood donors, also show there has been a significant increase in the number of 40 to 49-year-olds with antibodies, rising from 56 per cent since the end of April to 85 per cent.
The data demonstrates how the virus is now predominantly circulating in younger and unvaccinated people, with the most vulnerable and elderly largely protected.
Earlier this week, Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary stated that out of the 12,383 cases of the Indian variant, just three people had received both doses of the vaccine.
Latest UK vaccine numbers: rollout figures
Commenting on the new report, Mr Hancock said: “This new data shows the vaccine saves lives and protects you from ending up in hospital with Covid-19.
“With the threat of new variants, it’s never been more important to get the vaccine.”
A new study published in Nature also showed that the blood of people who received the Pfizer jab effectively kills off the Indian variant, the first time it has been shown to do so.
The latest PHE report also showed that although there was a reduction in vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic disease of 17 per cent after a single dose for the Indian variant compared to the Kent mutation, it was just seven per cent after two.
Effectiveness against hospitalisation and death is not yet known for the Indian variant but is likely to be substantially higher, in line with how the vaccines have performed up to now.
The case rate for 20 to 29-year-olds is currently 121.0 per 100,000 population, compared to just 6.7 per 100,000 for the over-80s. Hospital bosses have said vaccinated people entering hospitals are also suffering from profound underlying conditions that are making them more vulnerable to the infection.
PHE estimates that the vaccination programme has averted 42,000 hospitalisations and over 14,000 deaths in older adults.
Covid stage 5b: Antibodies
Overall, more than 77 per cent of the adult population now have antibodies to Covid-19 from either infection or vaccination compared to 15.1 per cent that have antibodies from infection alone, the report shows.
Nadhim Zahawi, the vaccines minister, said: “This new data highlights the incredible impact that both doses of the vaccine can have, with a second dose of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine providing up to 90 per cent protection.
“There is no better weapon to send this virus into retreat than our life-saving vaccines. A second dose is vital to ensure you have the strongest possible protection so we can return to normality and get back to the things we love.
“More than one in three adults across the country are already fully vaccinated with both doses. I encourage everyone to book their jab as soon as they are offered it and join the millions who are protected from this virus.”
PHE estimates that the vaccination programme has prevented 11,800 deaths in individuals aged 80 years and older, 1,800 in individuals aged 70 to 79 and 400 in individuals aged 60 to 69 years.
Estimates also indicate that the vaccination programme has prevented more than 80,000 hospitalisations, including 42,000 admissions in those aged 65 years and over in England, approximately 5,400 admissions in those aged 65 to 74, 16,300 in those aged 75 to 84.
Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at PHE, added: “As this data highlights, getting your vaccine is one of the most important ways to beat the spread of this terrible disease, protecting you and those around you. The vaccines are very safe and very effective.
“Each vaccine dose delivered helps us prevent lives being lost and people becoming seriously ill, therefore protecting our hospitals. That’s why it’s so important that you get both doses of your vaccine as soon as they are offered to you.”