What the ONS can tell you about the COVID-19 Vaccine programme

ONS is at the heart of the effort to ensure high quality data on the topic of COVID-19 vaccines. Our analysis is helping everyone to understand the take up and impact of the UK’s vaccine roll out.

We have been rapidly building a picture of the roll out from statistical, medical and behavioural perspectives.  With a variety of data sources and a vast amount of analysis being produced, we understand that all the information  can get a little overwhelming at times.

Esther Sutherland and Jonathan Laszlo guide you through everything you need to know about ONS’s vaccine analysis. 

I want to know about vaccine take up and antibody response in the community: The COVID-19 Infection Survey (CIS) is a representative household survey in the community population. Participants self-report if they have had the vaccine and we also link participants to vaccine records on the official vaccine registry in the database.

Blood samples are also taken from a proportion of the sample to test for antibodies. This is critical information as a COVID-19 vaccination can trigger an immune response in the body which produces COVID-19 antibodies. Understanding how many people are testing positive for antibodies after having the vaccine is one vital part of the picture in understanding how effective vaccination has been in the population. This analysis is currently broken down by country, region in England, and age group.

I want to know how people feel about the vaccine: The Opinions and Lifestyle Survey is a weekly ONS survey which collects data to understand the social impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on our society in Great Britain. Through this survey we have looked at trends in people’s sentiment towards taking the vaccine, categorising how likely they would be to take the vaccine if offered or whether they have already received it. This analysis is also broken down by characteristics so we can understand how vaccine hesitancy may vary across different groups in society.

I want to know about the impact of COVID-19 on the clinically extremely vulnerable population:  The COVID High Risk Group Insights Study is a survey which aims to answer policy questions about the clinically extremely vulnerable population who had been advised to shield.

The survey looks at the impact this has had on quality of life and personal behaviours. Analysis from this survey provides modelled estimates for, and analysis on, vaccination rates among the clinically extremely vulnerable. As one of the priority groups for the vaccination roll out, information about the levels of vaccine protection in this community is of vital importance and these data can help produce more targeted policy responses.

I want to know about the impact of vaccination on the Over 80s: Like the COVID High Risk Group Insights Study, the Over 80s Vaccines Insights Study responds to policy questions about the impact of vaccination on the behaviours, attitudes and well-being of the over 80s in relation to COVID-19 vaccination. The survey engages a sample of the over 80s population and participants self-identify if they have received the vaccine. The analysis records any self-reported changes in behaviour among the participants following vaccination and  tracks their attitudes towards receiving the vaccine before and after vaccination.

I want to see analysis on data for the whole of England: The National Immunisation database has been linked to the ONS Public Health Asset. This administrative data (non-survey data) can allow us to look at the total English population, rather than just at a sample of people in a survey. Undertaking analysis using this population-based dataset allows us to understand the proportions of the population who have taken the vaccine by different characteristics. We can look at vaccination rates in a more comprehensive way, in all settings, including care, and by more detailed breakdowns, for example ethnic background and disability. Looking at vaccination rates in this manner enables us to identify where the vaccination uptake has been more or less successful and whether there are groups in society where more work needs to be done to ensure that everyone who wants to has access to the vaccine.

I want the highlights of the ONS COVID-19 analysis, all in one place: The ONS has developed an Insights Tool which gives the latest information on vaccines, infections, hospitalisations, deaths, antibodies and much more. This tool is regularly updated and includes clear visual aids alongside critical information.

I want to know why different sources might report slightly different conclusions: Each of these sources is  focusing on a different part of the same vaccination picture and using different data. Each method has its strengths and weaknesses and has been specifically chosen for its ability to answer each question. This means , where there is overlap, the conclusions drawn from each source may differ slightly. In any instance of difference, statisticians and decision makers would re-examine the evidence.

I just want to see the numbers for all four UK nations: ONS is an independent body, which produces official statistics and analysis that are separate from, but closely aligned to the Government’s administrative data. The coronavirus dashboard is a Government tool that includes daily data for the UK and each constituent country on the actual number of people who have received a COVID-19 vaccination. This is based on individual vaccination records (administrative data held by each nation) and should be used to understand progress of the vaccination programme across the UK.

I want to know what’s coming next: We will continue to publish analysis for the public good on the topic of vaccines, including at more granular geographic levels, further breakdowns and using all possible data sources. Many of these sources here will be updated as the latest data is collected and analysed. We will also be working closely with our academic partners as they produce further research which casts a spotlight on the impact of the vaccination roll out.

Esther Sutherland

Esther Sutherland is a Senior Social Researcher for the ONS COVID-19 Infection Survey

Jonathan Laszlo

Jonathan Laszlo is a Research Officer for the ONS COVID-19 Infection Survey