Almost 90% of all 16-24 year olds now have Covid antibodies

Almost 90% of all 16-24 year olds now have Covid antibodies, official data suggests

  • Between  87 and 89 per cent of youngsters across the UK have Covid antibodies
  • This suggests they have some protection against the virus from infection or jab
  • Antibody positivity is ‘increasing steadily across all four UK countries’, ONS said

Nearly nine in 10 people in the UK aged 16 to 24 have Covid antibodies, according to official estimates. 

The Office for National Statistics, which carried out blood tests on youngsters across the UK’s four nations, found between 87 and 89 per cent of them had signs of some immunity. 

The presence of coronavirus antibodies suggests someone has been infected in the past or has been vaccinated.

But they are not a perfect measure of whether a person is protected against Covid. Other parts of the immune response are involved in fighting the virus, such a T-cells.

The steady increase seen across the UK has coincided with the roll-out of vaccines to younger age groups.

First doses have been available to teenagers aged 16 and 17 for several weeks, while all over-18s have been eligible since June.

And with over-12s being inoculated in schools from September 22, a similar surge in antibodies is expected among the youngest teenagers.

Meanwhile, ONS data also shows antibody levels are falling among older age groups, who were the first to get the jab when the rollout began last December.

Ministers hope its booster programme for over-50s, vulnerable Britons and frontline health workers, will keep immunity high heading into winter.

But if the NHS falls under pressure, N010 has planned to bring back face masks and working from home.

And the Government has cautioned that, while a lockdown is only a last resort, it has not be ruled out. 

In England, 88.7 per cent of 16 to 24-year-olds have Covid antibodies, according to estimates from the ONS based on a random sample of the population (green lines). Figures for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are similar. And all four nations are seeing a drop in antibody levels among older people, who were the first to be offered the vaccine earlier this year. The graphs also show that antibodies levels coincide with the different age groups getting the vaccine (light and dark blue lines), with rates among young people rising in recent months, while there was a much sharper increase among older people earlier this year when they were offered Covid vaccines

 The graph shows the proportion of over-16s in England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland who tested positive for Covid antibodies between December 7 and August 23. Rates were highest in England (93.6 per cent), followed by Scotland (93.3 per cent), Northern Ireland (91.9 per cent) and Wales (91.2 per cent). The graphs also show the proportion of the population who have received at least one vaccine (light blue line) and two jabs (dark blue line)

The ONS modelled the percentage of adults who have Covid antibodies based on blood samples taken across the four UK nations and in different age groups. In England and Scotland, antibody levels were the highest among younger groups who have more recently been given the jabs, while figures for Wales and Northern Ireland were less certain (shown through wider black lines, indicating less confidence around the figures). But lower levels of antibodies was spotted older age groups across each country

Antibodies are proteins that the immune system makes in response to any virus in order to help the body fight if off in future. It takes two to three weeks for them to develop.  

But testing positive for antibodies does not make someone completely immune, and people who have them can still get sick. 

Scientists say antibody levels dip naturally after peaking in the weeks following an infection or first vaccine, and people may not have detectable levels of antibodies now — even if they did so earlier in the year. 

And people who test negative for antibodies may still be protected — there are other types of ways the immune system can fight off pathogens. 

Life expectancy falls to lowest level in a DECADE due to Covid pandemic 

Life expectancy in England reached its lowest level in a decade because of the Covid pandemic, official figures have revealed. 

Public Health England (PHE) claimed the ‘very high level’ of excess deaths in 2020 caused by the pandemic saw life expectancy in men to drop by 1.3 years to 78.7. For women, the rate dropped 0.9 years to 82.7. 

This is the lowest since 2011 for both genders, according to the Government agency’s Health Profile for England report. 

And the gap in how long people live based on deprivation reached the highest ever recorded, which it said demonstrated that the pandemic ‘exacerbated existing inequalities’. 

Men living in the least deprived areas can expect to live a decade longer than those in the run-down boroughs, while the difference for women is 8.5 years. 

And there was differences across the country, with London seeing the biggest fall in life expectancy. The South West and East of England saw the smallest drops. 

Since the virus hit the UK last year, almost 120,000 people in England have died within 28 days of testing positive for the Covid.

But the dipping levels of antibodies add to a growing body of research that suggests protection from vaccines wanes over time.

This led officials to announce this week that vulnerable Brits will be offered booster vaccines from six months after their second jab.

In England and Scotland, 88.7 per cent of those aged 16 to 24 had Covid antibodies on the week beginning August 23.

While the figure stood at around 86.9 per cent in Wales and 87.2 per cent in Northern Ireland, according to the ONS estimates.

Antibody positivity among 16 to 24-year-olds is ‘increasing steadily across all four UK countries’, the ONS said. 

However, antibody levels have levelled off or declined slightly among adults in old age groups in recent months.

Around 95 per cent or more of over-50s are thought to still have antibodies.

But those aged 25 to 64 have similar or slightly higher antibody levels than those aged 65 and over, the ONS said.  

‘This is line with vaccinations for many of those in younger age groups occurring more recently,’ it said.

While the oldest and more vulnerable become eligible for a third dose six months after their second, experts are yet to decide whether boosters will be offered to younger groups.

But if they experience a similar drop in antibodies that is linked to a rise in infections, the booster campaign could be expanded.

Levels of antibody positivity are defined by a fixed amount of antibodies in the blood.

‘Most older people who are vaccinated will retain higher antibody levels than prior to vaccination but may have a lower number of antibodies in the blood at the time of testing,’ the ONS added.

In England an estimated 91.5 per cent of people aged 80 and over were likely to have Covid-19 antibodies in the week beginning August 23, down from 93.7 per cent two months earlier.

In Wales the proportion has dropped from 91.5 to 82.0 per cent, while in Scotland it is down from 88 to 85.9 per cent.

For Northern Ireland, the estimate for those aged 70 and over has fallen from 93.4 to 87.4 per cent.

The ONS said there a clear pattern between vaccination and testing positive for Covid antibodies, but ‘the detection of antibodies alone is not a precise measure of the immunity protection given by vaccination’.

Overall an estimated 93.6 per cent of the adult population of England was likely to have tested positive for Covid antibodies in the most recent week, while the figure was similar in the other three nations.

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