ONS COVID-19 Infection Survey to include additional focus on infection monitoring to vaccine surveillance

31 Mar 2021 09:58 AM

Major long-term study monitoring spread of COVID-19 in the general population to track impact of vaccination via millions of blood samples

The UK-wide study with more than 400,000 people currently enrolled, led by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC), draws on the world-leading scientific expertise of the University of Oxford to track the spread of COVID-19 in the general population.

The new focus comes as the government vaccine rollout programme reaches 30,151,287 first doses. Therefore, the focus is now on how effective the vaccines are in fighting the virus and understanding how they affect transmission.

National Statistician Sir Ian Diamond said:

“The next phase of this crucial study will help to inform our understanding of COVID-19 immunity in the UK population at any given time.

“COVID-19 has already been a formidable test of our ability to gather and analyse data quickly. The next phase will be no less demanding. But this critical work would not be possible without the continuing participation of hundreds of thousands of people in every part of the UK. I thank them sincerely for getting us this far. We’ll be counting on them a while longer to help us over the line.”

Health Minister Lord Bethell said:

“The UK continues to lead the world providing innovative and highly rigorous COVID-19 research and surveillance studies, which are vital in helping track infections and understand how the virus is spreading in different regions and communities.

“Extending the ONS research to look at vaccine efficacy will deepen our understanding of how vaccines are impacting infection rates and the spread of the virus as we work through our roadmap out of lockdown.

“"I am hugely grateful to everyone who has taken part so far and I trust we can all count on their continued involvement.”

Professor Sarah Walker from the University of Oxford Nuffield Department of Medicine said:

“Extending the survey will help us answer critical questions over the coming months, including whether some groups of people respond better to vaccination, how long vaccination protects people against getting infected for and whether new variants affect this.

“By giving a very small amount of blood every month, our survey participants will help the country work out how best to manage COVID-19 in the future.”

Notes to editors