Almost three quarters of people under 50 who needed hospital treatment for the COVID Delta variant last week in England were unvaccinated, figures have revealed.
Data released by Public Health England showed 9,472 people were admitted to hospital with the highly transmissible coronavirus variant in the seven days up to 29 August.
Of this number, 5,098 were below the age of 50 and 4,374 were aged 50 or over.
Of the 5,098 under-50s, 3,742 (73%) were unvaccinated, 724 (14%) had received one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 521 (10%) had received both doses.
Among the 4,374 aged 50 or over, 1,322 (30%) were unvaccinated, 372 (9%) had received one dose of vaccine, and 2,651 (61%) had been given their second jab.
In higher age groups, vaccinated people will tend to form a larger proportion of the figures, as the vast majority have received both doses.
More than 90% of over-50s in England have been double-jabbed, according to official NHS data.
In the same time period, a total of 1,798 people who were either confirmed or likely to have had the Delta COVID-19 variant died. Of those deaths, 154 were under the age of 50 and 1,644 were aged 50 or over.
Among the 154 deaths of people under 50, 99 (64%) were unvaccinated, 14 (9%) had received one dose of vaccine, and 37 (24%) had received both doses.
And of the 1,644 deaths of people aged 50 or over, 437 (27%) were unvaccinated, 128 (8%) had received one dose of vaccine, and 1,054 (64%) had received both doses.
The Delta variant has become by far the dominant one in the UK, making up almost all recorded new cases.
It comes as the government is urged to “get on” with a coronavirus booster programme rather than waiting for advice from vaccine experts.
Boris Johnson appeared to confirm that a rollout would begin this month, saying older people were the priority as autumn and winter approached.
But the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has not yet provided a recommendation on boosters, rather only a third dose for those with severely weakened immune systems.
Some experts have said existing doses should be used in poorer countries, where the majority of people are entirely unvaccinated, before people in richer nations receive a third jab.
The JCVI’s deputy chairman Professor Anthony Harnden said this week that it was “highly likely” there would be a booster programme, but that a final decision had not been made.
But former health secretary Jeremy Hunt warned that just a few days in a pandemic can make “a big difference”, and urged politicians to go ahead rather than waiting for the JCVI advice.
“I understand why scientists are taking their time, but I think in a pandemic politicians can also read the rooms and see the direction of travel,” he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
“I think Anthony Harnden, on your programme yesterday, gave a very clear hint… that they are likely to recommend boosters.
“In a pandemic, I think even a few days can make a big difference. So I think we should just get on, not wait for that advice, get on with a booster programme.”