Proportion of Covid-19 deaths aged 80 and over at highest since pandemic began

Infections are already at record levels among the oldest age groups.

29 March 2022

People aged 80 and over are accounting for a greater proportion of deaths involving Covid-19 than at any point since the pandemic began, analysis shows.

However, the number of deaths in the current wave continues to be well below levels seen in previous waves.

Some 423 of the 599 deaths that occurred in England and Wales in the week ending March 11 which mentioned coronavirus on the death certificate were among over-80s – the equivalent of 70.6%.

This is the highest proportion in any week since infections began spreading across the country in March 2020.

HEALTH Coronavirus Deaths
(PA Graphics)

At the peak of the first wave, 68.5% of deaths involving coronavirus were among people aged 80 and over, while the level reached 64.0% at the peak of the second wave.

The figures have been compiled by the PA news agency using the latest data on deaths involving Covid-19 from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

They show how the breakdown by age of people who are having Covid-19 recorded on their death certificate has tilted back strongly towards the oldest groups since the start of this year.

Over-80s accounted for just over half of Covid-19 deaths (51.1%) in the week ending January 7, but this reached nearly two-thirds (65.6%) by the week to February 18 and now stands at around seven in 10.

It follows a period in November and early December 2021 when the over-80s and people aged 60-79 each accounted for around 43% of deaths.

But a gap opened up sharply at the end of December and has widened further in recent weeks.

People aged 60 to 79 accounted for just 24.9% of Covid-19 deaths in the week to March 11, compared with 70.6% of over-80s.

The PA analysis has excluded the ONS data for deaths occurring in the week ending March 18, as this is incomplete.

The latest figures come after estimates published last week by the ONS found that the prevalence of Covid-19 among over-70s in England had reached a record high, with around one in 20 likely to have the virus.

Separate data released last week by the UK Health Security Agency (HSA) showed that Covid-19 hospital admissions rates for people aged 75 and over were at their highest level since January 2021.

Despite these trends, the number of people having Covid-19 recorded on their death certificate remains far below the totals reached in previous waves of the virus.

The 423 Covid-19 deaths of people aged 80 and over in the week to March 11 compares with a second-wave peak of 5,416 in the week to January 22 2021, and a first-wave peak of 5,024 in the week to April 17 2020.

The relatively low number of deaths during the current wave reflects the success of the vaccination programme, in particular the rollout of booster doses at the end of last year.

Vaccine effectiveness against mortality with the Omicron variant for people aged 50 and over is estimated to be 95% at two or more weeks after a booster jab, compared with about 60% at 25-plus weeks after a second dose, according to the HSA.

Bookings opened last week in England for people aged 75 and over to receive a “spring booster” – a fourth dose of vaccine – with similar campaigns set to begin in the rest of the UK.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has advised that a spring jab should be offered to those most vulnerable to Covid-19 as a precautionary measure, six months after their most recent dose.

HEALTH Coronavirus Deaths
(PA Graphics)

Separate figures from the ONS show there were a total of 683 deaths registered in England and Wales in the week to March 18 that mentioned Covid-19 on the death certificate – broadly unchanged (up 2% from 671) on the previous week.

Death registrations have levelled off in the most recent two weeks, following six weeks of successive falls.

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