Oooops! – Owl
Tom Whipple, Science Editor | Kat Lay, Health Editor www.thetimes.co.uk
Government modelling from two weeks ago underestimated the level of hospital admissions by more than a third, according to newly released documents.
Projections produced by Spi-M, the Sage modelling committee, on June 28 estimated that there would probably be about 275 daily hospital cases in England by about July 6, with an upper estimate of 350.
In reality on July 7, the latest date for which figures are available, there were 461 people admitted to hospital in England, and admissions were rising at a significantly higher rate than expected.
The discrepancy suggests that crucial decision-making at the time around reopening would have been informed by assumptions that turned out to be overly optimistic.
However, it came after a period when admissions had been significantly below those predicted by earlier models,which led some Sage scientists at the time to suggest that the delay to reopening might have been unnecessary.
Dr Stephen Griffin, from the University of Leeds, said that continued confusion over hospital admissions and their link to cases highlighted the uncertainty in relaxing restrictions.
“While we can’t say for sure that hospitalisations might follow this precise trajectory, it seems likely that they will track the exponential growth in cases we are seeing. Thus, as many are predicting, the dropping of restrictions on July 19 represents an unacceptable and unnecessary risk,” he said.
Neither should hospital cases be viewed as the only relevant metric. “There seems no accounting whatsoever of morbidity in the government plans, and there will be many, including younger people and children, that become seriously unwell,” he said. “Even before the 19th, Delta is out of control, we must not let this run rampant, let alone add more fuel to the fire.”
One of the key concerns about high caseloads over the winter appeared to have been tempered yesterday, with data from Public Health England [PHE] showing that two vaccine doses offered strong protection for most of those who are immunosuppressed.
The study involved a million participants with different conditions that made them clinically vulnerable. It found that overall in this group both the Oxford-AstraZeneca and Pfizer- BioNTech jabs offered 60 per cent protection after one dose. After two doses, the AstraZeneca vaccine offered 80 per cent protection from symptomatic disease. The Pfizer jab offered 89 per cent protection for over-65s, but data was unavailable for younger people.
Among those whose immune systems had been compromised, there was only 4 per cent protection after a first dose, but 73 per cent after a second.
The figures come with some uncertainty due to the smaller numbers involved. Blood Cancer UK said it was also concerned that people with different immune problems were grouped together. Gemma Peters, chief executive of Blood Cancer UK, said: “While there is a lot of uncertainty, there is enough reason to think the vaccines may not work as well for some people with blood cancer to continue to be cautious even after having both doses.”
Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at PHE, said the findings showed it was vital that anyone with an underlying condition got both doses.