Vaccines sharply cut hospitalizations in U.K.
LONDON — Two U.K. studies released Monday showed that COVID-19 vaccination programs are contributing to a sharp drop in hospitalizations, boosting hopes that the shots will work as well in the real world as they have in carefully controlled studies.
Preliminary results from a study in Scotland found that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine reduced hospital admissions by up to 85 percent four weeks after the first dose, while the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot cut admissions by up to 94 percent. In England, preliminary data from a study of health care workers showed that the Pfizer vaccine reduced the risk of catching COVID-19 by 70 percent after one dose, a figure that rose to 85 percent after the second.
“This new evidence shows that the jab protects you, and protects those around you,” U.K. 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.”
The studies were released as British Prime Minister Boris Johnson laid out plans Monday to ease a lockdown that has shuttered pubs, schools and nonessential shops since early January. The vaccine rollout is critical to returning the country to some sense of normalcy. More than 17.5 million have received one vaccine dose so far — more than a third of the U.K.’s adult population.
Britain has had Europe’s deadliest coronavirus outbreak, with more than 120,000 deaths.
Public Health England said its study of health care workers suggests the vaccine may help prevent virus transmission “as you cannot spread the virus if you do not have infection.” The findings are based on COVID-19 testing conducted every two weeks that detects infections whether or not someone shows symptoms.
Broader testing in the overall population showed that the Pfizer vaccine was 57 percent effective in preventing symptomatic illness in people over 80 three to four weeks after the first dose. That rose to more than 85 percent after the second dose. Overall, hospitalizations and death should be reduced by over 75 percent after one dose of the vaccine, Public Health England said.
The agency said it is still monitoring the impact of the AstraZeneca vaccine, but “early signals in the data suggest it is providing good levels of protection from the first dose.”
U.K. regulators authorized widespread use of the AstraZeneca vaccine on Dec. 30, almost a month after they approved the Pfizer vaccine.
The Scotland study was conducted by scientists at the University of Edinburgh, the University of Strathclyde and Public Health Scotland.
The preliminary findings were based on a comparison of people who had received one dose of vaccine and those who hadn’t been inoculated yet. The data was gathered between Dec. 8 and Feb. 15, a period when 21 percent of Scotland’s population received their first vaccine shot.