How many seriously ill COVID patients are unvaccinated?

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·Data and Politics News Editor, Yahoo News UK
·4-min read
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Prime Minister Boris Johnson during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (Covid-19). Picture date: Tuesday January 4, 2022.
Boris Johnson used a Downing Street press conference this week to once again urge people to get vaccinated. (PA Images)

“People are dying needlessly because they haven’t had their jabs."

Speaking at a Downing Street press conference this week, Boris Johnson once again warned the nation of the risks of not getting vaccinated against COVID.

Urging people to come forward for their jabs as soon as they are eligible, the prime minister said: "How absolutely crazy it is, absolutely crazy, that there are two million slots this week for people to get vaccinated and yet the majority of people in ICU for COVID are not vaccinated."

Watch: Whitty 'saddened' by people going unvaccinated

How many COVID ICU patients are not vaccinated?

According to the most recent figures, 61% of patients admitted to intensive care units (ICUs) with COVID in December 2021 were not vaccinated. At this time, unvaccinated people made up just 8.9% of the population.

The data, gathered by the Intensive Care National Audit & Research Centre, covers ICU admissions in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

In the report, being unvaccinated means a person having no record of receiving a vaccination or having had a first dose less than 14 days before receiving a positive COVID test.

Unvaccinated people make up most COVID ICU admissions, despite being a small proportion of the population. (Yahoo News UK/Flourish/ICNARC)
Unvaccinated people make up most COVID ICU admissions, despite being a small proportion of the population. (Yahoo News UK/Flourish/ICNARC)

In May 2021, some 75% of people admitted to an ICU with COVID were unvaccinated.

The figure fell to 47% in October 2021, a decline consistent with the decreasing proportion of the general population who are unvaccinated.

The proportion then rose again in November and December as Omicron began to spread through the population.

The figure varied across the regions of England in December, with London reporting the largest proportion of unvaccinated people admitted to an ICU with COVID.

London reported the highest proportion of unvaccinated people being admitted to ICU with COVID (Yahoo News UK/Flourish/ICNARC)
London reported the highest proportion of unvaccinated people being admitted to ICU with COVID (Yahoo News UK/Flourish/ICNARC)

In the capital, two thirds of those admitted to an ICU with COVID in December were unjabbed.

In some NHS trusts, staff have reported that as many as 90% of COVID ICU patients are not vaccinated.

Speaking on 21 December, London ICU doctor Professor Rupert Pearse said 80 and 90% of the COVID patients on his ward were not jabbed.

He told The Sun: “The most common thing they say is: ‘Can I have the vaccine now please?’ But patients cannot have the vaccine until they have recovered."

How many people are still not vaccinated?

Less than 10% of over-12s in the UK are entirely unvaccinated in the UK.

Some 90.2% of over-12s have had one dose, 82.6% have had two doses and 60.1% have had a booster or a third dose.

More than 90% of over 12s in the UK have had at least one COVID jab (Yahoo News UK/Flourish/Government data)
More than 90% of over 12s in the UK have had at least one COVID jab (Yahoo News UK/Flourish/Government data)

Speaking on Tuesday, England’s chief medical officer Professor Sir Chris Whitty said he has been left “saddened” by the proportion of unvaccinated patients in intensive care.

He said “the great majority” of those who were in intensive care and had not been jabbed were “not anti-vaxxers in the ordinary sense with some really weird ideas”, but had been taken advantage of by those seeking to misinform them online.

Whitty added “misinformation” about potential side effects from jabs was fuelling fears about vaccination, as well as misinformation about whether the vaccines are effective against the disease.

“Insofar as I am frustrated it is simply people deliberately trying to scare away fellow citizens from something that is potentially going to be life-saving for them,” he said.

Chief Medical Officer for England Professor Chris Whitty during a media briefing in Downing Street, London, on coronavirus (Covid-19). Picture date: Wednesday December 15, 2021.
Chief medical officer for England, Professor Sir Chris Whitty, warned that many unvaccinated people had been deliberately misinformed about vaccines online. (PA Images)

He added that said a booster provided around 88% overall protection against being admitted to hospital after catching Omicron.

Some 194,747 people were confirmed to have tested positive for COVID on Wednesday as Omicron continues to spread rapidly.

A total of 17,276 people were in hospital in the UK with COVID-19 as of 4 January, up 58% week-on-week – although far below the peak of almost 40,000 in January 2021.

Amid rapidly rising hospital admissions, soaring case rates and staff shortages hitting the NHS, the prime minister on Wednesday insisted he was right to stick with Plan B coronavirus measures.

Speaking in the House of Commons, the PM said the measures – including wider use of face masks and guidance to work from home – were “helping to take the edge off the Omicron wave”, slowing the spread, easing pressure on the NHS and buying time for the booster campaign to take effect.

Watch: Boris Johnson sticks with Plan B in bid to ‘ride out’ Omicron without lockdown

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