Today we hit our target of offering the COVID-19 vaccination to all 16 and 17 year olds in England, strengthening our wall of defence against this disease as we build back better.
A total of 89,070,370 people have been vaccinated in the UK, including 47,573,794 people with a first dose (87.5%) and 41,496,576 people with a second dose (76.3%). The success of our vaccine programme has saved over 95,000 lives and prevented over 80,000 hospitalisations and 23.9 million infections in England alone, but to maintain this success it is vital that young people also get vaccinated.
Following an unprecedented vaccine drive, we have now hit our target of offering everyone in that age group a vaccination – and are asking young people to come forward and share their experiences of the diseases to encourage others to get the jab.
People aged 16 and 17 are able to get vaccinated at one of more than 800 GP-led local vaccination sites and NHS England has launched an online walk-in site finder to help this age group locate the nearest available centre. Further sites will come online over the coming days and weeks.
All at-risk people aged 12 to 15 in England have also been invited for a vaccination and young people are encouraged to take up the offer as soon as possible to build vital protection before returning to school in September.
Separately, we are still awaiting advice from the JCVI about the vaccine booster programme, but we are confident that the programme will begin in September.
By maintaining the success of our vaccine rollout, we can continue returning schools and colleges to normal, building back better and allowing people to go about their daily lives.
For more information on the COVID-19 vaccination programme following all 16 to 17 year olds in England being offered a COVID-19 Vaccine, including powerful stories young people have shared about their experiences of suffering long COVID to urge others to get jabbed, please visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/young-covid-patients-share-stories-to-urge-others-to-get-jabbed.
Government launches UK-wide antibody surveillance programme
Yesterday the Government launched our new national antibody testing programme, through the UK Health Security Agency, to strengthen our understanding of COVID-19 as we return to normal life.
Our historic vaccination programme continues to provide a wall of defence and has prevented over 100,000 deaths in England alone, allowing us to cautiously return to normal life. That is why the Government has launched new opt-in antibody testing when booking a PCR test – to monitor vital data tracking the ongoing impact of our world leading vaccination programme on the immune response to different variants of COVID-19 – ensuring that we are able to prevent infections.
From Tuesday, anyone aged over 18 will be able to opt in to take part when booking a PCR test through NHS Test and Trace. Up to 8,000 people who opt in and then receive a positive PCR result will be sent two finger prick antibody tests to complete at home and send back to a lab for analysis.
The UK Health Security Agency will work alongside NHS Test and Trace testing services in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to monitor levels of antibodies in positive cases across the UK. The data collected will help estimate the proportion of those who got COVID-19 despite developing antibodies as a result of having a vaccine or previously catching coronavirus.
The initiative could also provide insight into any groups of people who do not develop an immune response. The UK Health Security Agency will use the data to inform our ongoing approach to COVID-19 and provide further insight into the effectiveness of the vaccines against different variants.
All adults interested in the study are encouraged to opt in. Anyone taking part must take their first antibody test as soon as possible after receiving a positive PCR result, before the body has had time to generate a detectable antibody response to the current infection. The first test will determine the level of antibodies a person had before their current infection.
The second test should be taken 28 days after testing positive for COVID-19 and will measure antibodies generated in response to the infection. By comparing the two antibody test results, the UK Health Security Agency will be able to see how well vaccinated individuals boost their immunity when they are infected and how this might vary with different variants.
Antibodies are part of the body’s immune response to help fight off infection and are generated either after being infected or following vaccination. Antibody testing looks for evidence of this immune response, whereas PCR and antigen testing tells someone if they have the virus at the time of test.
Testing positive for antibodies does not mean someone is immune from COVID-19 and people must continue to follow the rules, get tested if they have symptoms and self-isolate if positive or are a contact of a positive case and have not received both vaccine doses, to prevent the virus from spreading.
This innovative programme will further improve our understanding of the effectiveness of our vaccines and help target treatments for COVID-19 in future.
For more information on the Government’s UK-wide antibody surveillance programme, including comments from the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care and the Chief Executive of the UK National Health Security Agency, please visit: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/government-launches-uk-wide-antibody-surveillance-programme.