Tuesday 16 February 2021 1:41 pm

Over-80s now most likely age group to have Covid antibodies

Over-80s in England are now the most likely age group to have antibodies, according to official figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), in the surest sign yet that the nation’s largest ever vaccination programme is starting to pay off.

The latest ONS antibody survey found that the highest percentage of people testing positive for antibodies were those aged 80 years and over in England.

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Around 41 per cent of over-80s in England tested positive for antibodies, which the ONS said was “most likely due to the high vaccination rate” within the age group. 

The figure marks a significant jump from two weeks ago, when antibodies were detected in just 26 per cent of over-80s surveyed.

People test positive for antibodies either if they have been infected with Covid in the past few months or if they have been vaccinated, with antibodies starting to emerge around three weeks after a Covid jab.

Over-80s were followed by people aged between 16 and 24 in England, where the percentage testing positive for antibodies was around 26 per cent. 

The ONS said this was most likely due to past infection rather than vaccination, since jabs have so far been limited to over-70s and the most vulnerable members of the population.

In the other three UK nations, which have immunised a smaller proportion of their older population, antibody detection remained highest in younger groups. 

An estimated one in five people across all age groups in England have antibodies, according to the ONS, compared to one in seven in Wales and Northern Ireland and an estimated one in nine in Scotland.

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“Antibody positivity rates have increased across all four nations and the effects of the vaccination programmes have begun to appear, especially in the older age groups,” said Esther Sutherland, principal statistician for the Covid-19 Infection Survey. 

It comes after vaccines tsar Nadhim Zahawi this morning said early data on the effect of vaccines on coronavirus transmission was “really encouraging”. 

Research released yesterday by the University of Oxford revealed that the case fatality rate (CFR) in over-80s has fallen 32 per cent since its peak in January.

In contrast, the CFR has dropped just 14 per cent in the under-65s in the same period suggesting the vaccination programme is having a significant impact on reducing mortality rates.

Zahawi praised the data as “promising”, though he warned more expansive data would not be made public for some weeks still. 

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