Doom-laden press briefings. Warnings that millions could soon be self-isolating. Grim predictions of fresh restrictions. It’s starting to feel a little too… familiar. And last week came another sign that Covid hasn’t finished with us just yet. On Tuesday, the Government announced 96 coronavirus deaths in a single day – up 92 per cent since the week previously, and the highest figure since March. But with about 70 per cent of Britons – including almost all of the most vulnerable – protected by two doses of the vaccine, is there now real cause for concern?
Perhaps most worrying was the latest Public Health England (PHE) data showing more vaccinated people, on average, are dying from the disease compared to those who are unjabbed. Is something going wrong? How much at risk are we, despite having had our jabs?
In an attempt to find an answer, this newspaper has collected accounts from emergency medics working tirelessly up and down the country as well as bereaved loved ones. Among them is 35-year-old Carla Hodges from Hertfordshire, whose stepfather, Leslie Lawrenson, died aged 58 in early July having contracted the virus weeks earlier. Leslie, a solicitor, had no underlying health conditions – but didn’t have his vaccine, because he believed he ‘didn’t need it’. ‘He was convinced because he was healthy without any problems, it wouldn’t be too bad for him,’ says Carla, an account manager. ‘He didn’t realise how sick he was. One minute he said he felt like he had bad flu, but was sitting up in bed and working, the next minute he’d passed away in his bed.’
Medics have been warning that despite the lifting of restrictions last Monday, Covid-19 still represents a major public health threat, pictured a woman drawing on the National Covid Memorial Wall on the embankment in LondonInsurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
Carla Hodges, pictured left, with her children and her mother Amanda, centre and her stepfather Leslie Lawrenson, pictured rear, urged the pair to get vaccinated. Mr Lawrenson, who was a solicitor, died at home in Hampshire having contracted Covid-19 after refusing to get vaccinated. On the day he died, his partner was taken to hospital suffering from pneumonia caused by Coronavirus. Luckily she was released from hospital a week later, regretting that she and Mr Lawrenson had ignored warnings about the dangers posed by the virus
Glenn Barrett, 51, from Grimsby told the nurse who was about to intubate him inside the ICU unit of Princess of Wales Hospital that he wished he had taken up the option of having a vaccination. Three weeks after getting infected, most likely while watching England versus Croatia at a local social club, Mr Barrett was dead
On the same day Leslie died, Carla’s mother Amanda, 56, who has diabetes and was also suffering with Covid, was admitted to hospital with pneumonia – she was also unvaccinated. ‘Les had convinced her she’d be fine without it and her chances of dying were really small,’ says Carla. ‘I’d said “Mum, you really should get the vaccine” time and time again, but she didn’t listen. She told me her doctor said she didn’t have to get it, which I knew was a lie.’
Thankfully, Amanda was discharged a week later. ‘Now she regrets not having the vaccine and is desperate to get it as soon as she can,’ says Carla. ‘I just want everyone not to take their health for granted. This virus is still out there. And it’s still killing people.’
Then there is 51-year-old Glenn Barrett, who died earlier this month at the Princess of Wales Hospital in Grimsby, having contracted the virus three weeks earlier, most likely while watching the England vs Croatia Euro 2020 game at his social club. The volunteer carer rejected the offer of a jab.
His cousin, Ken Meech, said: ‘Glenn had his reasons for not having the jabs, but he had no spleen and no immune system to help fight any infections.’
Glenn, like many who get very sick after refusing the jab, was ultimately full of regret. Relatives said his final words to nurses before going into an induced coma and being attached to a ventilator were: ‘I wish I’d had my jab.’
Despite these warning stories, it is also true that many of those who have died recently of Covid have been at least partially vaccinated. Last week, Chief Scientific Officer Sir Patrick Vallance stated that 40 per cent of those currently in hospital with Covid had been double-jabbed.Insurance Loans Mortgage Attorney Credit Lawyer
Last week, Chief Scientific Officer Sir Patrick Vallance, pictured at a press conference in Downing Street, stated that 40 per cent of those currently in hospital with Covid had been double-jabbed
According to the most recent PHE figures, the majority of those infected with the Delta variant who died between February and June had received at least one jab.
Experts say this is to be expected. Roughly five per cent of people who have both doses of the vaccine will not respond to it, and a further five per cent may produce a weak response due to underlying conditions that compromise their immune system. Transplant patients taking high doses of medications that suppress their body’s infection-fighting mechanisms and blood cancer patients make up the majority of this group. Together, this adds up to roughly three million people potentially extremely vulnerable to the virus.
And age is still a risk factor. While the vaccine reduces the risk of death from Covid 20-fold, the risk of death for a 70-year-old is 32 times that of a 35-year-old.
Dr Katherine Henderson, London-based emergency medicine consultant said she and her colleagues are seeing an increasing number of people under 40 who were previously healthy suffering from Covid-19. She said the one common factor is that they are not vaccinated
John Edmunds, Professor at the Centre for the Mathematical Modelling of Infectious Diseases, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, explains: ‘As we vaccinate more people, we would expect to see a greater proportion of deaths occurring in vaccinated people.
‘If we had vaccinated everyone then we would expect to see fewer deaths overall, but all of them would be in vaccinated people.’
It is also possible that people who, on paper, are double-vaccinated may have become infected soon after their second dose – meaning it hadn’t had time to work properly.
Dr Katherine Henderson, London-based emergency medicine consultant and President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, says: ‘We have a small number of older, frail patients who have been jabbed but have conditions that affect the immune system, so they don’t respond as well, and a few in their 70s and 80s who still haven’t had their vaccine, for whatever reason. But generally speaking, the country-wide stats don’t give a true representation of what we’re seeing in individual hospitals. It’s a totally different picture.’
If you speak to doctors on the ground, they say the most seriously ill they see are unvaccinated.
Doctors say this cohort has led to the emergence of a surprising, new patient group. Dr Henderson says: ‘In the last waves, we saw almost exactly the same patient over and over again – elderly people with type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and maybe obesity. It was almost as if you could diagnose Covid illness just by looking at them. But now we have the vaccine, it’s a totally different set of people – they’re in their 40s, or younger, previously well, and unvaccinated.’
The latest Government data shows uptake of at least one dose of the jab is more than 90 per cent in all age groups above 60. But in the 45-to-49-year-old age group, it drops to 80 per cent. In 25-to-29-year-olds, it’s just shy of 60 per cent. One London-based medic told this newspaper the average age of Covid patients on their intensive-care wards was just 42.
The latest Government data shows uptake of at least one dose of the jab is more than 90 per cent in all age groups above 60. But in the 45-to-49-year-old age group, it drops to 80 per cent. In 25-to-29-year-olds, it’s just shy of 60 per cent
Another medic, working in the North of England, says one of his most seriously ill patients, who is currently in intensive care with the bleakest prospects, was just 26 with no underlying health conditions. ‘The woman didn’t want to have the vaccine, and we weren’t entirely sure why.’
A respiratory consultant working on a Covid ward reveals some patients had said they’d wanted to achieve ‘natural immunity’ by contracting the