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Experts urge Government to publish vaccine data

Ministers were asked a month ago to publish more detail about the vaccine rollout.
A patient receives a Covid jab
A patient receives a Covid jab

The Government has not published detailed data on the coronavirus vaccine rollout, despite being asked for information a month ago, an expert has said.

Statistical regulators asked for more detail about the programme, such as what proportion of certain groups have received the Covid-19 jab.

But this data is yet to materialise, which is “upsetting” and a “shame”, Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter said.

Coronavirus graphic
(PA Graphics)

The statistician from the University of Cambridge, who is also a non-executive director of the UK Statistics Authority, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “As a statistician, the lack of detailed data by the vaccine rollout, I find very upsetting.

“The office for stats regulation wrote to the Government … more than a month ago, saying there should be be much better publicly available data.”

He added: “We don’t know about the numbers or the proportions by the priority groups – groups one to nine; we don’t know the proportions by ethnicity; we don’t know this broken down by region.

“I mean they do, somebody does, but we’re not getting it.

“And I think that’s a real shame as it was asked for a long time ago and so far nothing has happened.”

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “As of last week, NHS England have published CCG (clinical commissioning group) level data across England, which I think was important.

Over 15 million people have received their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. If you know someone who could has but hasn't, make sure they know they are eligible and how to book. Over 70s and others in groups 1-4 can book even without a letter.

— Herts Valleys CCG (@HVCCG) February 17, 2021

“We collect ethnicity data and we publish that, and we work with directors of public health and local government to share mid-level data, without obviously in any way jeopardising people’s privacy and personal health data.

“But all that work continues at pace. Data is our ally in this vaccination rollout and we continue to do more.”

He said he would “happily” look at what else could be done.

Asked about the general direction of numbers for the easing of restrictions, Sir David said: “The numbers are extremely positive, better than people would have predicted.

“I think the Government is right not to give precise criteria about what the number of cases has to be, what the number of deaths has to be before certain things would happen.

“The way they are apparently proposing to do it is to move gradually, evaluate things over three weeks or so, seems to be entirely appropriate.

Coronavirus graphic
(PA Graphics)

“But things are going very well.”

He said the Government should not “follow” the data but be guided by it.

“The data does not tell you what to do,” he said.

“You should be guided by it.

“But these decisions are so much broader than just what the numbers can tell you, these are political decisions.

“That’s why I’m glad it’s not being turned into some sort of algorithm where if this is the case then something will happen.”

He continued: “But the data is hugely important; we know, obviously, we’re going to be looking at hospitalisations and deaths coming down.

“(Deaths) are halving every two weeks or so, going down faster in all the groups.

“And we’re going to hear today some claims about what the vaccines are doing about transmission.

“The vaccine trials are fantastic things, but they tell us about the efficacy against mild disease – it’s the last thing we’re interested in, we do not care about that.

“We care about efficacy against hospitalisations and deaths, which is likely to be a lot higher, and we care about efficacy against transmission, which is going to be a bit lower.

“The news coming out of Israel looks very good about this and we’re going to start getting more data now.”

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