More than 81 percent of UK adults have now received a vaccine against COVID-19, but predictions for winter remain bleak. The threat of waning immunity has informed decisions to launch a booster programme of the COVID-19 vaccine, in a bid to strengthen defences among the most vulnerable. One professor at the University of Edinburgh, however, has warned that this may still not be enough to slow hospitalisation rates in the coming months.
Recent estimations suggested between 2,000 and 7,000 people a day could be hospitalised with COVID-19 next month.
Experts have warned that the already over-stretched NHS is at risk of being overwhelmed unless a fresh set of measures are implemented.
Despite scientific advisers highlighting the need for an “urgent basket of measures”, the Prime Minister has made clear he hopes to avoid fresh restrictions.
The scientists warned: “With the current levels of high prevalence combined with unknown behaviours, the burden on health and care settings could rise very quickly.
“It could become a very difficult winter ahead.”
Although the majority of adults in the UK are now vaccinated, experts have warned that the six million unvaccinated individuals remain vulnerable to the fast-spreading delta variant.
This cohort comprises mainly of two groups of individuals – those who refuse the vaccine, and children.
The number of unvaccinated individuals helped shaped previous predictions that caseloads would surge as restrictions were eased in July, which they did.
Now it is believed higher levels of mixing could trigger a third infection wave in coming months, with two competing forces at play, according to the New Scientist.
On one side, a rise in immunity from infections, vaccinations and booster jabs could drive down infections rates.
Conversely, waning immunity and the emergence of highly infectious variants could drive up caseloads.
Anne Johnson, from University College London, explained that the outcome hinges on how both opposing forces balance out.
One of the key drivers of this argument is that vaccines fail to offer full protection, which means that significant uptake may not be enough to strengthen current shields.
Estimations show 81 percent of UK adults are double-jabbed, but nearly six million are unvaccinated.
Since July’s spike in caseloads, the number of new infections triggered by each case is close to one, but this R value, could easily climb above one as immunity wanes, the modelling group explained.
The estimations put forward by modellers on the Sage committee predict that daily hospitalisations could far surpass the winter peak.
According to the modelling, a scenario in which the R value hits 1.5, and leads to 7,000 hospitalisations a day is a possibility.
The model suggests however that it is more likely that R value hits 1.1, leading to 2000 hospitalisations.
Mark Woolhouse, of the University of Reading, told New Scientist: “You should make a strong case that from now on, you expect the number of cases to go up or to go down or to stay the same.
“That means you have to be prepared for a set of eventualities. You could encapsulate them as hope for the best, or prepare for the worst.”
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