Britain could achieve Covid herd immunity before EU, report says

UK and the US may achieve ‘herd immunity’ through Covid jabs before the end of 2021… but Germany, France and Italy will have to TRIPLE their current speed to inoculate 70% of their population, data shows

  • UK is already dishing out 358,340 doses a day on average, a report by German company Statista says
  • This is 46 per cent more jabs than the country needs to achieve herd immunity by December 31 this year
  • France, Germany and Italy, however, will need to more than double the pace of their rollouts they said

Britain and the US may be on the cusp of herd immunity by the end of 2021 thanks to their speedy Covid vaccine roll-outs, data suggested today.

But forecasters analysing the current pace of the global inoculation drive have warned Germany, France and Italy must rapidly speed up to reach the same threshold.

Herd immunity is when an infectious disease stops naturally spreading in a population because enough people are protected against the disease. 

Experts disagree over the level needed to stamp out Covid — but the overwhelming consensus is that at least two thirds of people must have immunity. Statista, a German statistics company which compiled the figures, used a 70 per cent threshold. 

Despite having slowed down over the past month, the UK is still dishing out 335,000 coronavirus vaccines every day. But Statista’s projections say Britain only needs to inoculate 245,000 people each day to hit the theoretical figure for herd immunity by December 31. 

The US, which is giving jabs to around 1.9million people each day, would only need to reach 1.2million to hit the same target. It is likely to be the first Western nation to hit the target, the report said. There are suggestions Israel reached the state last week, as more than two thirds of its population has received a first dose.

France and Germany, however, must more than double their efforts if they are to hit 70 per cent by the end of the year. Both nations are administering between 110,000 and 130,000 doses each day. And Italy, which is going even slower and jabbing 75,000 people a day, will need to triple the pace.

Almost 18million Britons have already received a Covid vaccine and Boris Johnson has put a successful jab roll-out at the heart of his lockdown-easing plan. As long as the operation continues successfully, all restrictions could be dropped in England by June 21, but any hiccups along the way could threaten that target. 

But No10 has been urged to pick up the pace, with data showing the drive — deemed crucial to Britain’s hopes of being released from lockdown in the next few months — has plunged to the lowest levels in a month. Ministers have pledged to offer first doses to all over-50s by April 15, with the remaining adults set to be reached by the end of July.

Ministers have blamed supply problems for delays, but Pfizer and AstraZeneca have both claimed deliveries are on schedule.

On the other hand, the EU’s roll-out has been dogged by mounting delivery delays. Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has issued a grovelling apology for the bloc’s jab shambles, but many members are now securing separate deals with suppliers to ensure they have enough shots for their residents. 

The UK is administering 358,340 doses of Covid vaccines a day on average, according to the Statista report, which is 46 per cent more than it needs to achieve herd immunity by the end of this year. The US is also administering more doses

Above the UK’s vaccine rollout is laid out. About a third of adults in Britain have received one dose of the vaccine

Above is the UK’s progress towards herd immunity as the country steams towards a swift exit from lockdown. Boris Johnson has been urged to speed up the drive, however, after it slowed by 30 per cent this week

The US is on course to become the first country in the world to achieve herd immunity against Covid, the report said. This is when the virus stops spreading because enough people are immune to the disease

France has suffered from an anaemic vaccines rollout after problems with securing supplies of doses in Brussels

Germany has also suffered from a slow rollout, with less than six per cent of its citizens inoculated against the disease so far. The authorities here have started securing deals outside the EU to increase their supply

Italy has also faced a slow rollout of the vaccine. The report says the pace must be tripled to achieve herd immunity this year


Some regional NHS sites have started dishing out Covid jabs to healthy people in their twenties, it emerged today in another example of the UK’s vaccine postcode lottery.

Despite national guidance stating only the top six priority groups should currently be invited for the jab, there have been growing reports of younger Brits who are not frontline NHS or social care staff receiving their first dose.

Examples have been most common in London, which is seeing the poorest uptake of anywhere in Britain, but there have also been anecdotal evidence of it happening in parts of Manchester, Scotland and Wales.  

GPs in the capital are believed to be moving down through the priority groups to use up doses that would otherwise go to waste. But it’s not clear why others are ignoring Government guidance or if admin errors are contributing to the problem.

Ellie, 28, who is registered at a GP practice in Balham, south London, and has no comorbidities, got her first injection in mid-February. When she asked why she was being selected ahead of more vulnerable people, she was told it was ‘her lucky day’. 

Rhiannon Williams, 32, a journalist at The i newspaper, revealed today she was given her first vaccine in Tower Hamlets, East London, after a ‘very surprising’ appointment invitation, despite having no health woes. 

She told the paper: ‘At first I assumed I might have something in my health history I wasn’t aware of that bumped me up the list, but when I called up to ask the surgery said it was merely working its way through its patients.

‘Either way, I’m grateful to have received my first jab and would urge anyone else to follow NHS advice and to accept an invitation for a vaccine when offered.’ 

Currently only people over the age of 60, anyone over 16 with a serious health condition, frontline NHS and care home workers and carers of disabled people are eligible to receive the vaccine. 

The report published on February 23 assessed how likely each of the five countries considered was to gain ‘herd immunity’ this year, using publicly available data on the number of doses administered.

Statista says it compiled the figures using official numbers released up to February 22 and used a figure of 358,000 for Britain. But the Department of Health data shows that the UK is averaging just 335,000 people jabbed per day.  

The analysis also included estimates of the proportion of people who would get the jab but not become immune to the disease. No jabs are 100 per cent effective. The study could not consider changes in supply, the key limiting factor in the rollout. 

The UK will need to dish out 245,000 doses a day to achieve herd immunity by December 31, they wrote, while the US would need to give out 1.2million.

France, however, needs to administer 280,000 daily, more than double the number being delivered, while Germany needs to give out 360,000, 61 per cent more than the current drive. Italy would need to administer 260,000 doses, meaning it needs to more than triple the pace.

The report said the UK has raced ahead in the rollout because it got a ‘head start’ when its regulator approved the Pfizer/BioNTech jab three months before the cumbersome European body.

‘This gave the country a head start with its vaccination campaign, resulting in around 20 vaccinations per 100 inhabitants as of the beginning of February,’ they wrote.

The likelihood the UK would also be the pioneer in approving additional vaccines such as Johnson & Johnson’s dose and Novavax put the country in good stead for a speedy delivery, they said.

‘In perspective, the UK is most likely to be the first large European country to reach herd immunity,’ the report noted.

‘In addition, the UK was reportedly less affected by the shortages in the delivery of Covid vaccines than EU countries. Overall, as of February 2021, herd immunity against Covid within 2021 appears achievable for the UK.’

The US has seen its vaccination programme ‘rapidly increase overtime’, the report said, putting the country in a good position to achieve herd immunity this year.

‘The goal of President Biden to reach 100million administered vaccines by his 100th day in office is likely to be exceeded,’ they added.

‘By continuously increasing its current average of almost 1.9million administered vaccines per day, the country will be able to reach herd immunity already in 2021. The US is on a promising way to be the first country of the G20 countries to reach herd immunity in 2021.’

Mr Johnson is under mounting pressure to ensure the vaccine rollout does not run out of steam, after the number of first doses given dropped for the fifth day in a row week-on-week yesterday.

The UK’s inoculation list was expanded out of the top four priority groups — care home residents and staff, over-70s, clinically severely ill adults and NHS frontline staff — to cover all those over 65 last week.

But there have been reports of people in their twenties and thirties being offered the jab in some areas, revealing the country’s postcode lottery.

Rhiannon Williams, 32, a journalist at The i newspaper, revealed today she was given her first vaccine in Tower Hamlets, East London, after a ‘very surprising’ appointment invitation, despite having no health woes.

It comes after Gavin Williamson claimed coronavirus vaccine supply issues are not to blame for Britain’s roll-out suffering its worst slump in a month.

The Education Secretary insisted today there was ‘no problem’ with deliveries of doses and said ‘there will always be some days’ when uptake dips lower. Despite the trend, Mr Williamson claimed he had ‘every confidence’ the mammoth NHS operation would be ‘rebounding back very shortly’.

The comments contradicted Matt Hancock who revealed yesterday a European-wide vaccine supply shortage could lead to ‘quieter’ weeks ahead for Britain’s jab drive.

One of the main problems is thought to be lower than expected output at manufacturing sites in AstraZeneca’s supply chain on the continent.

The British drugmaker, which manufactures Oxford University’s Covid jab, has told the European Union it will only be able to deliver less than half of its contracted supplies before summer, raising fears the UK’s orders could also be affected.

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