The Covid-19 vaccines provide robust protection even to those most vulnerable to the virus, a recent study by Public Health England (PHE) concluded.
The report was welcome news to the four million Britons who had been sticking to the strictest shielding rules – such as not even leaving the house for exercise – for much of the pandemic.
But there was a caveat: 'No vaccine is 100 per cent effective,' advised PHE. 'You should continue to take the extra precautions set out in this guidance to help protect yourself.'
The announcement was immediately met with criticism from charities, which accused PHE of being 'misleading and dangerous'.
The Cystic Fibrosis Trust, Blood Cancer UK and Kidney Care UK, among others, have called for specific guidance for the most vulnerable after tomorrow's so-called Freedom Day.Insurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
And all this has made for a confusing message, with social media awash with former shielders asking: Am I safe?
Experts are most concerned for those who have severe immune-system problems, as these limit the body's response to the vaccine and the protection it should provide.
The Covid-19 vaccines provide robust protection even to those most vulnerable to the virus, a recent study by Public Health England (PHE) concluded. The report was welcome news to the four million Britons who had been sticking to the strictest shielding rules – such as not even leaving the house for exercise – for much of the pandemic. But there was a caveat: 'No vaccine is 100 per cent effective,' advised PHE
These include patients with kidney disease and blood cancers – which compromise the white blood cells responsible for making antibodies that fight off viruses – and people taking drugs that suppress the immune system for illnesses such as multiple sclerosis, cystic fibrosis and inflammatory bowel disease.
Transplant patients are also affected.
Roughly half a million Britons are estimated to fall into this category, according to Professor Adele Fielding, president of the British Society for Haematology.
Q: I've been pinged by the NHS Covid app – but I've been double-jabbed and I've read the app is playing up anyway. Do I really need to isolate?
A: More than half a million Britons were 'pinged' by the NHS Covid app last week – the highest figure yet recorded – meaning they had come into close contact with someone who'd later tested positive for Covid, so must isolate for up to ten days.
The app works by keeping a record of every time two users spend 15 minutes or more within two metres of each other.Insurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
If one of them tests positive, an alert is then automatically sent to the other telling them to go into quarantine.
From August 16, people who are fully vaccinated will be exempt from quarantine orders.
At that time, Ministers believe enough of the population will have been jabbed to make relaxing this restriction feasible as it won't have a significant impact on viral transmission.
Government advisers are said to be looking at whether this date could be brought forward, particularly if someone who was double-jabbed also had a negative test result. But this is not the case at present.
The isolation order is not legally binding, because the app system works anonymously and is therefore impossible to enforce.
However, Ministers and scientists say the public should follow the guidance in order to break chains of virus transmission.
Responding to suggestions that the app was malfunctioning, Professor Jon Crowcroft, a computer systems expert at the University of Cambridge, said: 'The number of notifications is exactly what you'd expect, given 250,000 people tested positive in the last week alone. There's nothing wrong with the app – people just aren't socially distancing enough.'
Dr Simon Clarke, Associate Professor in Cellular Microbiology at the University of Reading, said: 'Around one-third of people who are asked to self-isolate go on to become ill themselves. This proportion has remained consistent in recent weeks.
'It is still perfectly possible to be double-jabbed and catch the virus. It is a great inconvenience to be asked to stay at home for ten days, but it is much, much more damaging for people's health and the economy to have a rampant new wave of infections ballooning out of control.'
While PHE says the Covid vaccines remain 80 to 89 per cent effective for most shielding groups – a similar level to healthy people – for those with compromised immune systems their protection was notably diminished.
One dose was just four per cent effective, while two granted 74 per cent protection.
PHE looked at the medical records of about a million Britons to come up with the figures, but could not supply a breakdown of the details of the participants, which experts say is a crucial flaw.
'Giving an average level of vaccine efficacy across a large group of immuno-compromised people with different conditions isn't particularly helpful,' says Fiona