The first real-world results of the UK’s groundbreaking vaccination programme suggests it is having a “brilliant” impact on preventing serious illness.
Research, led by Public Health Scotland, found that – by the fourth week after the first dose – hospitalisations were reduced by 85 per cent for the Pfizer jab and 94 per cent for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.
Figures for England are expected to be released later, to coincide with Boris Johnson’s announcement of his roadmap to releasing the country from lockdown.
Scientists from the Universities of Edinburgh, Strathclyde, Aberdeen, Glasgow and St Andrews and Public Health Scotland looked at data on people who had received either the Pfizer/BioNTech jab or the one developed by scientists at the University of Oxford with AstraZeneca.
Preliminary data from the EAVE II project encompasses 1.14 million vaccinations given between 8 December and 15 February. The study examined the numbers being admitted to hospital with Covid-19 among this population, and compared it to those admitted who had not been vaccinated.
Data for the two jabs combined showed that among people over the age of 80 – who are at high risk of severe disease – the reduction in risk of hospital admission was 81 per cent four weeks after the first dose.
In total, just over 8,000 people ended up in hospital – but only 58 of them had been vaccinated four weeks previously.
The Pfizer vaccine has been received by some 650,000 people, while 490,000 have had the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.
Lead researcher, professor Aziz Sheikh, director of the University of Edinburgh’s Usher Institute, said: “These results are very encouraging and have given us great reasons to be optimistic for the future.
“We now have national evidence – across an entire country – that vaccination provides protection against Covid-19 hospitalisations.
“Rollout of the first vaccine dose now needs to be accelerated globally to help overcome this terrible disease.”
Dr Jim McMenamin, national Covid-19 incident director at PHS, said: “Across the Scottish population the results show 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.”
Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England, said: “This research provides encouraging early data on the impact of vaccination on reducing hospitalisations.”
Researcher Dr Josie Murray, from PHS, said it was “brilliant news”, adding: “These data show real promise that the vaccines we have given out can protect us from the severe effects of Covid-19. We must not be complacent though.
“We all still need to ensure we stop transmission of the virus, and the best way we can all do this is to follow public health guidance – wash your hands often, keep two metres from others, and if you develop symptoms, isolate and take a test.
“We also all need to protect ourselves, our families and friends by taking the second dose of vaccine when it is offered.”
Chris Robertson, professor of public health epidemiology at the University of Strathclyde, said: “These early national results give a reason to be more optimistic about the control of the epidemic.”