Approximately 50% of people in the UK now have antibodies against COVID-19, either through infection or vaccination, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
According to the ONS, in the week ending 14 March 2021, an estimated 54.7% of the population in England, 50.5% in Wales, 49.3% in Northern Ireland and 42.6% in Scotland would have tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies. Across all four UK countries, the estimates suggest there has been an increase in antibody positivity.
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‘The upward trend in antibody positivity in the latest data will principally be because more and more people are being vaccinated, since the level of actual virus infections is fairly low across all the UK countries,’ said Prof Kevin McConway, Emeritus Professor of Applied Statistics, The Open University.
‘The effect of vaccinations also shows up clearly in the figures for the percentage who would test positive for antibodies at different ages. Rates of testing positive are much the highest in the older age groups, where many people have already received at least one dose of vaccine.’
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The ONS COVID-19 Infection Survey has recently been expanded to include an additional focus on infection monitoring to vaccine surveillance. The number of participants giving antibody blood samples will be gradually increased up to approximately 150,000; these participants will take a finger-prick blood test as well as their regular nose and throat swabs. Participants selected to give blood samples (both existing and newly invited) will also be asked to remain in the study until April 2022, rather than the current maximum of a year.
‘The UK continues to lead the world providing innovative and highly rigorous COVID-19 research and surveillance studies, which are vital in helping track infections and understand how the virus is spreading in different regions and communities,’ said Health Minister Lord Bethell.
‘Extending the ONS research to look at vaccine efficacy will deepen our understanding of how vaccines are impacting infection rates and the spread of the virus as we work through our roadmap out of lockdown. I am hugely grateful to everyone who has taken part so far and I trust we can all count on their continued involvement.’