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Vaccines protect against death from COVID-19 though some clinical characteristics can increase vulnerability

Findings from a Scottish study, published in the Lancet Medical Journal, show that people who have received two doses of COVID-19 vaccine are far better protected against death from the virus than those who are unvaccinated, however, there are certain characteristics which can make people more vulnerable.

The EAVE II study, led by Public Health Scotland and supported by a range of Scottish Universities, sought to examine where deaths occurred from COVID-19 among people who were vaccinated with two doses.

Our work has consistently found that vaccines overall are very effective at preventing hospital admissions and deaths from COVID-19.

This whole country analysis – one of the first of its kind in the world – does however show that unfortunately some people do die from the virus despite being vaccinated with two doses.

No vaccine is 100% effective and it is therefore very important that those at risk come forward for their booster vaccine doses when invited to do so.

Professor Aziz SheikhDirector, Usher Institute and EAVE II study lead

Mulitple underlying conditions

The findings show that that the main predictors of post-vaccination COVID-19 deaths were being aged 80 or over, having multiple underlying health conditions and being male.

Of the 3.2 million people who had received two vaccine doses in Scotland by 18 August 2021, 236 had died with COVID-19 listed as a cause of death on their death certificate. Of these, the majority were around 80 years of age and 62% were male.

Alongside COVID-19, 97% of the group had at least one other cause listed on their death certificate. The most common being chronic heart or kidney disease, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and/or a fast or irregular heart beat (atrial fibrillation).

This study shows that deaths from COVID-19 were extremely uncommon in people who have had two doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

We know that having two vaccine doses does significantly improve peoples’ levels of protection, regardless of age, underlying health conditions or sex, when compared to those who are unvaccinated.

Indeed, our findings suggest that adults aged 18-64 who are double vaccinated have almost four times increased protection against dying from COVID-19 compared to those who are unvaccinated. The figures are even more stark for those who are older, with double vaccinated adults aged 65-79 experiencing 15.5 times greater protection against death than their unvaccinated peers, and for adults over 80, this increased to 30 times higher.

It is therefore hugely important that when invited for a COVID-19 vaccine, whether it be a first, second or booster dose, you take the opportunity to bolster your protection.

Dr Josie MurrayConsultant at Public Health Scotland

The research letter ‘Characterisation and risk of COVID-19 related death in fully vaccinated people in Scotland’ can be found on The Lancet website

Public Health Scotland press release

EAVE-II website