Hundreds of fully vaccinated people in England have been hospitalised with the highly contagious Delta coronavirus variant, scientists said on Friday.
In their latest COVID-19 update, Public Health England (PHE) experts also warned there were early signs that people who have been inoculated may be able to transmit the Delta strain as easily as those who have not received any jabs.
From July 19 to August 2, 55.1 percent of the 1,467 people hospitalised with the Delta variant were unvaccinated, PHE said, while 34.9 percent – or 512 people – had received two doses.
Dubbed “freedom day”, July 19 was the date England significantly eased lockdown restrictions.
All vaccines in use in the United Kingdom – those produced by AstraZeneca, Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech – require recipients to receive two doses to be fully inoculated.
About 75 percent of the UK’s adult population has received two shots to date.
“As more of the population gets vaccinated, we will see a higher relative percentage of vaccinated people in hospital,” PHE said.
Jenny Harries, chief executive of the UK Health Security Agency, said the hospitalisation figures showed “once again how important it is that we all come forward to receive both doses of the vaccine as soon as we are able to do so”.
“Vaccination is the best tool we have in keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe from the serious disease risk COVID-19 can pose,” Harries said in a statement.
“However, we must also remember that the vaccines do not eliminate all risk: it is still possible to become unwell with COVID-19 and infect others.”
PHE’s findings chime with those from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which last week raised concerns that vaccinated people infected with Delta could, unlike with other variants, readily transmit it.
Vaccines have been shown to provide good protection against severe disease and death from Delta, especially with two doses, but there is less data on whether vaccinated people can still transmit it to others.
“Some initial findings … indicate that levels of virus in those who become infected with Delta having already been vaccinated may be similar to levels found in unvaccinated people,” PHE said.
“This may have implications for people’s infectiousness, whether they have been vaccinated or not. However, this is early exploratory analysis and further targeted studies are needed to confirm whether this is the case.”
The Delta variant has become the dominant form of coronavirus circulating globally, sustaining a pandemic that has already killed more than 4.4 million people, including more than 130,000 in the UK.
It now accounts for 99 percent of all COVID-19 infections in the UK, PHE said.