How many people in England are unvaccinated?

21 December 2021
What was claimed

23.5 million people in England haven’t had a single dose of Covid-19 vaccine.

Our verdict

False. This is based on flawed maths and is too high. There are two estimates for the true figure, depending on which population estimate you use, but both are considerably lower.

“UK Government report admits there are 23.5 Million people in England who have NOT had a single dose of a Covid-19 Vaccine”

News blog The Exposé has claimed there are 23.5 million unvaccinated people in England. 

The figure used by the blog has been incorrectly calculated and exaggerates the number of unvaccinated people. 

It’s hard to say for sure what the true figure is, because there’s not one estimate for the total population of England. 

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How has the Exposé calculated its figures?

To calculate its figure, The Exposé multiplied its estimate of the population of England eligible for a vaccine (47.8 million) by the level of first dose vaccine coverage in England as of 12 December published by the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA), which was 67.9%.

It therefore concluded that 32.4 million people had received a vaccine, leaving 15.3 million eligible people unvaccinated and 23.5 million in total who hadn’t received a vaccine dose, whether eligible or not. All people aged 12 and over are eligible to be vaccinated.

This calculation is flawed because the UKHSA’s vaccine coverage figure didn’t refer to what proportion of eligible people had been vaccinated, but what proportion of the entire English population had been vaccinated, including those not eligible for vaccination.

The UKHSA published data in another report that same week showing that, at the time, 42,611,175 people in England had been vaccinated. This is 67.9% of the figure it uses for the total population of England, not just those eligible. 

How many people are unvaccinated?

As of 19 December 2021, 43,250,509 first doses have been given in England. 

To calculate how many people are unvaccinated, you can subtract this from the total number of people in England. The problem is there’s two quite different estimates of what this figure might be.

The Office for National Statistics’ (ONS) latest estimate for 2020, puts the population at 55.6 million. This would leave about 12.3 million people who have not received a first dose, either because they are not eligible, or have otherwise not received a vaccine.

But the UKHSA uses data extracted from the National Immunisation Management Service (NIMS) which counts 62,724,319 people in England registered with the NHS. This would mean 19.5 million people haven’t received a first dose.

Neither dataset is perfect. The ONS figure is an estimate of the population over a year ago based on the 2011 census, and cannot be used to link individuals to vaccine status, limiting the ability to analyse data by, say, ethnicity or region. Such information is available when using NIMS.

On the other hand, NIMS is expected to overestimate the total population of England (and therefore the total number of unvaccinated people), as it includes people who are still registered with the NHS but moved abroad for example, and may double count people registered with more than one GP

These datasets can also be used to calculate quite different estimates of the number of people eligible for vaccination, who are vaccinated or unvaccinated.

To estimate the size of the population eligible for vaccination, the government uses the ONS estimate for the population aged 12 and over, which is 48,375,273. With 43,250,509 first doses having been given in England, that would leave an estimated 5.1 million eligible people who have not received a dose of vaccine. 

The NIMS figure for the population aged 12 or over is 54,328,630, which would leave around 11 million eligible people in England who have not received a dose of vaccine.

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