Estimating the Effectiveness of First Dose of COVID-19 Vaccine Against Mortality in England: A Quasi-Experimental Study

Estimating real-world vaccine effectiveness is vital to assess the COVID-19 vaccination programme and to inform the ongoing policy response. However, estimating vaccine effectiveness using observational data is inherently challenging because of the non-randomised design and potential for unmeasured confounding. We used a Regression Discontinuity Design (RDD) to estimate vaccine effectiveness against COVID-19 mortality in England using. the fact that people aged 80 or over were prioritised for the vaccine roll-out. The prioritisation led to a large discrepancy in vaccination rates in people 80–84 compared to those 75–79 at the beginning of the vaccination campaign. We found a corresponding difference in COVID-19 mortality, but not in non-COVID-19 mortality, suggesting that our approach appropriately addresses the issue of unmeasured confounding factors. Our results suggest that the first vaccine dose reduced the risk of COVID-19 death by 52.6% (95% Cl 26.6–84.2) in those aged 80, supporting existing evidence that a first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine has a strong protective effect against COVID-19 mortality in older adults. The RDD estimate of vaccine effectiveness is only slightly lower to previously published studies using different methods, suggesting that these estimates are unlikely to be substantially affected by unmeasured confounding factors.

Author list



  1. Office for National Statistics, Newport, UK (Charlotte Bermingham, Jasper Morgan, Daniel Ayoubkhani, Myer Glickman, Vahé Nafilyan)
  2. Nuffield Department of Population Health, Big Data Institute, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK (Nazrul Islam)
  3. Usher Institute, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK (Aziz Sheikh)
  4. Health Data Research UK BREATHE Hub (Aziz Sheikh)
  5. Bristol Medical School, University of Bristol, UK (Jonathan Sterne)
  6. Nuffield department of Medicine, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK (A. Sarah Walker)
  7. London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK (Vahé Nafilyan)


Charlotte Bermingham, Jasper Morgan, Daniel Ayoubkhani, Myer Glickman, Nazrul Islam, Aziz Sheikh, Jonathan Sterne, A. Sarah Walker, Vahé Nafilyan

Novel Coronavirus SARS-CoV-2


American Journal of Epidemiology