Findings from Poland’s health ministry and academic researchers indicate that people fully vaccinated against COVID-19 have a very low chance of infection and have constituted less than 2% of all coronavirus deaths in Poland this summer.
From the start of June to 13 July, only 26 people who died of COVID-19 had received a full course of vaccinations, according to health ministry data provided to the Polish Press Agency (PAP). That was 1.8% of the 1,428 deaths recorded during that period (at the start of which 20% of the population were fully vaccinated, reaching 40% by the end).
“These results should be read with great optimism”, Lucjan Wyrwicz of the National Institute of Oncology told PAP. Given that among the 26 deaths of fully vaccinated people, 21 were people aged over 70, Wyrwicz suggested that many “may be immunocompromised patients” upon whom “the vaccine may not have the full protective effect”.
A separate study, published this month in the journal Vaccines, showed that among 7,500 people hospitalised with COVID-19 at four hospitals in Poland between 27 December and 31 May, just 11 (0.15%) were fully vaccinated. During that period, Poland went from having 0% to 18.5% of its population fully vaccinated
The results indicate “the high efficacy of vaccines in preventing severe disease”, note the authors. Last week, the health ministry also announced that, among fully vaccinated people in Poland, only 0.61% have subsequently contracted coronavirus.
Yesterday, the health minister, Adam Niedzielski, noted that people aged under 39 – the age group with the lowest rate of vaccination – now constitute the majority (57.2%) of infections. Those aged over 60 make up just 14.5%.
Blisko 60 proc. zakażonych koronawirusem w wariancie Delta to osoby do 39 roku życia. W grupie najbardziej zaszczepionej tj. od 60 roku życia zakażenia wariantem Delta to jedynie 14 proc. Szczepionki chronią nas przed nowymi mutacjami koronawirusa. #SzczepimySię pic.twitter.com/2KNT1IELzx
— Adam Niedzielski (@a_niedzielski) July 20, 2021
While infections in Poland have fallen rapidly since their all-time peak at the turn of March and April, and are now among the lowest in Europe, Niedzielski warned that things may soon take a turn for the worse.
The virus’s reproduction (R) number in Poland has passed 1, meaning that “in the coming weeks we will observe increases” in infections, wrote the minister. But he said that the strength of the next wave will depend on how many people are vaccinated.
Although Poland’s vaccine rollout initially proceeded at roughly the same pace as the European Union average, since mid-June it has fallen well behind, with the government noting a “very disturbing” decline in registrations.
The authorities have tried various ways to encourage people to get the jab, including launching a lottery for fully vaccinated people with a one million zloty (€222,000) top prize. But last week the government confirmed it would have to sell tens of millions of unused doses to other countries.
Daniel Tilles is editor-in-chief of Notes from Poland. He has written on Polish affairs for a wide range of publications, including Foreign Policy, POLITICO Europe, EUobserver and Dziennik Gazeta Prawna.