The Delta variant, which is now responsible for most of the coronavirus infections in England, does not lead to an increase in hospital admissions there, according to Public Health England on Thursday.
Although the number of coronavirus infections has risen sharply in recent weeks, hospitalization rates remain low. Between June 21 and June 27, the weekly hospitalization rate was 1.9 per 100,000 people, the same as the previous week.
The hospitalization rate rose slightly in the past month, from 1.1 admissions per 100,000 people in early June, according to the agency. But it remains significantly lower than during the surge in England last winter when the hospitalization rate peaked at more than 35 admissions per 100,000 population.
The data suggests that countries with high vaccination rates are unlikely to see higher hospital admissions rates from Delta. Almost 75 percent of adults in England – including 95 percent of those who are 80 or older – have had at least one injection, according to the agency.
Earlier this month, England postponed its reopening plans after Delta caused a surge in new cases.
Case numbers are highest in young adults who are least vaccinated, Public Health England reported. (Among those under 40, only 34 percent are at least partially vaccinated.) Young people are less likely to develop severe Covid-19, which may explain why the spread of Delta has not sparked a surge in hospital admissions.
Breakthrough infections, or those that occur in people who are fully vaccinated, tend to cause mild or no symptoms.
At a separate press conference on Thursday, the European Medicines Agency stated that vaccination should provide good protection against Delta.
“We are aware of the concerns caused by the rapid spread of the Delta variant and all variants,” said Marco Cavaleri, director of the Agency’s Biological Health Hazards and Vaccine Strategy, at the meeting. Given the research to date, the four vaccines approved in the European Union – Pfizer-BioNTech, Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Jonson – all appear to protect against the Delta variant, he said.
For example, in a recent study, researchers found that the Pfizer vaccine was 88 percent effective at protecting against symptomatic diseases caused by Delta, a feat that is close to its 95 percent effectiveness against the original version of the virus . However, a single dose of the vaccine is much less effective.
“Accelerating vaccination and maintaining public health efforts remain very important tools in combating the pandemic,” said Dr. Cavaleri. “In particular, ensuring that vulnerable and elderly people complete their vaccination course as quickly as possible is of paramount importance.”