Nearly 14 per cent of England's population has Covid-19 antibodies, major study shows

25 February 2021, 07:57 | Updated: 25 February 2021, 08:01

People shop at an outdoor fruit and vegetable market in Tooting in South Londo
People shop at an outdoor fruit and vegetable market in Tooting in South Londo. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

A major study shows around fourteen per cent of people in England has evidence of antibodies against Covid-19.

The REACT study led by Imperial College London also found two doses of the Pfizer jab is working well in people of all ages.

Professor of Public Health Linda Bauld said: "It's a really useful snapshot. We are really beginning to see some positive signs now that this programme is working."

More than 154,000 participants tested themselves at home using a finger prick test between January 26 and February 8, showing 13.9% of the population had antibodies either from infection or vaccination.

READ MORE: Education Secretary Gavin Williamson to lay out exam grade plan after 2020 chaos

READ MORE: Surge testing in two new areas after South African variant detected

More than 17,000 of these participants had received at least one Covid-19 vaccine dose.

The data indicates that 87.9% of people over the age of 80 tested positive for antibodies after two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

This rose to 95.5% for those under the age of 60 and 100% in those aged under 30.

The Imperial College London and Ipsos MORI study, React-2, also shows high confidence levels in the vaccine

More than 90% of those surveyed reported that they would be willing to accept, or had already had a vaccination.

But vaccine confidence varied by age, sex and also by ethnicity, highest in those of white (92.6%) and lowest of black (72.5%) ethnicity.

The three most commonly selected reasons for vaccine hesitancy were wanting to wait and see how the vaccine works, concern about long-term health effects, and worries about side effects.

Other common concerns shown in free text comments were around current and planned pregnancy, future fertility and specific allergies or comorbidities.

Listen & subscribe: Global Player | Apple Podcasts | Google Podcasts | Spotify

Professor Paul Elliott, director of the React programme, Imperial College London, said: "Overall there's very high effectiveness in terms of antibody positivity from two doses of the BioNTech, and also from a single dose in people who have had prior infection, that much we know.

"And also, although there is some fall off in positivity with age, at all ages we get that very good response to two doses of the vaccine.

"And in terms of the confidence in the vaccine, it's very, very high, although there are some groups where it's a bit low, and that includes some ethnic minority groups and some younger people."

Antibody prevalence in unvaccinated people remains highest in London (16.9%), and in people of black (22.1%) and Asian (20%) ethnicities, and those aged 18-24 years (14.5%).

Health Secretary Matt Hancock, said: "These findings shed more light on rates of antibodies across the UK and among different groups, as we continue to strengthen our understanding of Covid-19.

"It is fantastic to see over 90% of people surveyed would accept or had already accepted a vaccine, as we continue to expand the rollout.

"I urge anyone who has been invited for a vaccine to book an appointment.

"And while we are seeing rates of the virus gradually decline it is important we all hold our resolve and follow the rules as we deliver on our cautious but irreversible approach to easing lockdown."