COVID-19: Quarter of people in England have coronavirus antibodies, up from one in five, Matt Hancock tells MPs

March 02, 2021

A quarter of the people in England are now thought to have COVID-19 antibodies, Health Secretary Matt Hancock has said.

The figure of one in four, taken last month, is an improvement on the previous estimate of one in five, he said, with the highest levels in those considered most vulnerable.

Mr Hancock told MPs that Office for National Statistics (ONS) figures "show that up to February 11, one in four people are estimated to have antibodies against coronavirus in England, up from one in five".

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He said: "The levels are highest in the over-80s, the first group to be vaccinated, showing again the protection from the vaccine across the country."

The ONS figures estimated more than half (56.4%) of people aged 80 and over in private households in England now have antibodies, "most likely because of the high vaccination rate in this group", it said.

The equivalent estimate for 75 to 79 year-olds is 24.9%, while for 70 to 74 year-olds it is 16.6%.

The presence of COVID-19 antibodies suggests someone has either had COVID-19 in the past or has been vaccinated.

It takes between two and three weeks after infection or vaccination for the human body to make enough antibodies to fight the virus.

More than 15 million people in England had received a jab by 21 February, according to NHS England's latest report.

A little over three million of them, or about 20% of the vaccines administered to that point, were aged over 80.

In the UK as a whole, more than 20 million people have received the vaccine.

Mr Hancock announced the latest figures in a speech in the House of Commons in which he said the hunt for an unidentified person who tested positive for the Brazil variant has narrowed to 379 households in southeast England.

In total, six cases of the P1 coronavirus variant first found in Brazil have been detected in the UK.

It may spread more easily and evade the immune system, a study, which has not been peer-reviewed, shows.

Results from a recently published study by Imperial College London (ICL) showed 88% of people over the age of 80 tested positive for antibodies after two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.

The survey was the first time researchers at ICL, who have monitored COVID-19 antibody levels in the population over several months, captured the impact of vaccination.

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