Covid vaccines ‘might have saved around 150,000 lives’ so far in UK

Some projections suggest 500,000 people could have died in the UK, had a vaccine not become available (Picture: PA)

Covid vaccines may end up preventing hundreds of thousands of deaths in the UK, a leading expert has claimed.

Professor Sir Andrew Pollard, who helped create the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab, suggested there could have been as many as half a million deaths in the UK had a coronavirus vaccines not been found.

Despite the inoculation programme, the UK has still recorded almost 144,000 deaths within 28 days of a positive test, while nearly 167,000 people had Covid-19 on their death certificates.

But Professor Pollard believes that without jabs, the number might be around twice as high, at around 300,000.

He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show on Sunday: ‘We have, with the Oxford vaccine, got to two billion doses (worldwide). But if you look at all the developers, we’re at 7.6 billion doses out there.

‘Without those 7.6 billion doses globally, we’d be in a very different situation.’

He continued: ‘So if we just look at the UK, the predictions last year were that there would be between 300,000 and 500,000 deaths.

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‘And actually when you look at the data on lives saved so far this year, we’re actually not far off to actually think that that is the right number, that we might have been at around about 300,000 deaths by now without a vaccine.’

It is very hard to estimate exactly how many more people could have died if a vaccine had not become available, since other measures may have been brought in to stop the spread of the virus.

But experts are agreed that without jabs the death toll around the world would have been far, far higher.

A vaccine for Covid-19 was far from inevitable, with many taking years to be found and some illnesses still not preventable through jabs.

Amid discussion over whether booster jabs should be administered to young people in developed countries, Professor Pollard called for more doses to be given to low income countries – and used a mobile phone analogy to explain his reasoning.

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‘If your phone today was at about 75% charged, and mine was at 5%, I think it would be easy to work out who should get the phone charger’, he said.

‘It should be me.

‘And of course, that’s where we are today. We’ve got around about 75% of the whole population here in the UK vaccinated. In low income countries we’re still at 5%.

‘So we really do need to get doses to those populations.’

He added that there is quite a lot of immunity among younger people in the UK but said reaching the point where the virus no longer spreads is ‘not going to be a thing’.

Professor Pollard also argued that it is ‘unlikely’ that the UK would see the sort of ‘very sharp’ rise in cases witnessed in other parts of Europe in recent days.

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