The Covid-19 vaccination programme is breaking the link between Covid-19 infections and deaths, study conducted by Imperial College London has found.
The study found infections had fallen by roughly two-thirds in the United Kingdom since February, before beginning to level off.
This comes as people began to mix more, however the same does not hold good for Covid-19 deaths.
The research, commissioned by the government and run by Imperial College London, is based on swabs taken from 140,000 people selected to represent England’s population.
Of that group, who were tested for the virus between 11 and 30 March, 227 had a positive result, giving a rate of 0.2%, or one in 500 people.
But in people over the age of 65, the infection rate was half that with one in 1,000 people testing positive for Covid.
Scientists can identify decreases which are being driven by vaccination.
Researchers estimate the virus’s reproduction number during this period up to the end of March to be one, meaning the epidemic is level but not receding.
“Since the first substantial relaxation of lockdown in England with the opening of schools on 8 March 2021, the rate of decline of new cases has slowed considerably,” the report said.
Infections were most common in primary and early secondary school-aged children and lowest in the over-65s, which the Imperial team said was “consistent with an effect from the vaccination rollout”.
The flattening off “probably does reflect increased social mixing”, Prof Stephen Riley at Imperial College London, one of the study’s authors. said, and some of that will be to do with schools opening up.
More than 5.6 million people have now been fully vaccinated with two doses in the UK, while 31.7 million have had a first dose.
Fresh guidance was issued on Wednesday recommending that under-30s in the UK should be offered a different Covid vaccine to the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab, after a review found a potential link to rare blood clots.
Of the vaccines currently approved for use, the UK has ordered the most of the AstraZeneca jab – 100 million doses. It has bought 40 million of the Pfizer-BioNTech jab and 17 million of Moderna.