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How UK vaccination is saving many from the virus

Tuesday February 23rd 2021

The first dose of the first COVID-19 vaccine has cut risk of dying from the virus by three quarters among its first elderly recipients, according to “early data”, released yesterday.

It has also provided significant protection to the healthcare workers targeted with early doses, according to the analysis.

Recipients over the age of 70 had risk cut by 56% within 14 days, according to the analysis released by Public Health England of the Pfizer mRNA vaccine.

The findings suggest that some of those vaccinated in the first wave have succumbed to the virus – but overall patients over the age of 80 who contract the infection after vaccination were 40% less likely than the unvaccinated to need hospital treatment, the agency said. Their first dose of vaccine was 57% effective in preventing symptomatic disease, it reported.

The “high” levels of protection are also found against the Kent variant of the virus, according to its findings. The analysis of effects among the elderly has come from linking vaccination to cases identified through test and trace – and then tracking those admitted to hospital.

Public Health England said the findings were “promising” but protection was “not complete.” The data may prove significant because of the age range of those who were in the early stages of mass vaccination – in contrast with the younger age ranges of those taking part in clinical trials.

Amongst healthcare workers under the age of 65, the first dose of vaccine cuts the risk of infection by 70% and this has increased to 85% after the second dose, Public Health England said.

Its head of immunisation Dr Mary Ramsay said: “This is strong evidence that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is stopping people from getting infected, while also protecting cases against hospitalisation and death. We will see much more data over the coming weeks and months but we should be very encouraged by these initial findings.

“But protection is not complete, and we don’t yet know how much these vaccines will reduce the risk of you passing COVID-19 onto others. So even if you have been vaccinated, it is really important that you continue to act like you have the virus, practice good hand hygiene and stay at home.”

UK health secretary Matt Hancock said: “It is important that we see as much evidence as possible on the vaccine’s impact on protection and on transmission, and we will continue to publish evidence as we gather it. As we roll out the jab, it is vital people continue to play their role in protecting the NHS by sticking with the rules.

“This data shows clear protection from the first dose, particularly against severe disease, supporting the decision to maximise the number of people vaccinated with a single dose, as advised by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI).

“The current dosing strategy will save more lives by ensuring more people receive protection from severe disease following the first dose.

“There is also good evidence suggesting that giving the second dose of AstraZeneca later will lead to much higher levels of protection. Offering the booster at 12 weeks will therefore help to ensure longer lasting protection beyond the current restrictions.”

* A second study in Scotland, released by Edinburgh University, has found that the Pfizer vaccine cut risk of hospitalisation by 85% and the Oxford/AstraZeneca adenoviral vaccine by 94%. The risk among over 80s was cut by 81% overall.

The analysis included about a million people vaccinated in Scotland.

Dr Jim McMenamin, of Public Health Scotland, said: “These results are important as we move from expectation to firm evidence of benefit from vaccines. Across the Scottish population the results shown a substantial effect on reducing the risk of admission to hospital from a single dose of vaccine. For anyone offered the vaccine I encourage them to get vaccinated. We are continuing our evaluation and look forward to describing the benefits that we hope will follow the second doses of these vaccines.”

[PHE report]

Tags: Elderly Health | Flu & Viruses | NHS | Pharmaceuticals | UK News

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