A study led by Health Data Research UK (HDR UK) and the University of Edinburgh indicates that more than 7,000 hospital admissions and deaths in the UK during the summer of 2022 might have been prevented if individuals had received their recommended Covid vaccinations. The research, using anonymized health data for the entire UK population of 67 million people, reveals that between a third and a half of people had not completed the recommended Covid vaccination and booster doses by June 1, 2022, accounting for nearly 27 million people in England alone.

The study, a landmark advance for science in the UK, includes data from all four nations and spans age groups five and above. By June 1, 2022, the under-vaccination rates were 45.7% in England, 49.8% in Northern Ireland, 34.2% in Scotland, and 32.8% in Wales. Mathematical modeling was then employed to estimate that 7,180 hospitalizations and deaths out of 40,393 COVID-related hospital admissions and deaths from June 1 to September 30, 2022, could have been avoided with full vaccination coverage.

Among the 40,393 hospital admissions and deaths, 14,156 involved under-vaccinated individuals, with the majority being older people. Higher rates of under-vaccination were observed in younger individuals, men, those in areas of higher deprivation, and people of non-white ethnicity. The study indicates a decline in vaccine uptake with additional doses offered, emphasizing the importance of complete vaccination.

Comparing fully-vaccinated individuals to those under-vaccinated, the study found that individuals aged five to 15 were over two times more at risk of death and hospital admission from COVID-19, those aged 16 to 74 were 50% more at risk, and adults aged 75 and over were over three times more at risk. Professor Sir Aziz Sheikh, HDR UK research director and co-lead of the study, emphasized the critical role of large-scale data studies in pandemic management, highlighting the potential to tailor public health campaigns based on the study’s findings.

The study, the largest of its kind in the UK, brings together data from all four nations and is considered a significant step forward for science. Researchers now aim to extend similar studies to various medical areas, such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, respiratory diseases, screening programs, and other vaccinations. Professor Cathie Sudlow, chief scientist at Health Data Research UK, underscored the unique position of the UK to leverage health data for better understanding, prevention, and treatment of diseases.

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