Single AstraZeneca or Pfizer dose cuts hospitalisations in over 80s by 80%

Politics

A single shot of either the Oxford-AstraZeneca or Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines is more than 80% effective at preventing hospitalisation among the over 80s, the health secretary has said.

Speaking at a Downing Street news conference, Matt Hancock hailed “exciting new data” showing the effectiveness of the two COVID-19 jabs.

According to a pre-print study from Public Health England, which has not been reviewed:

  • The vaccines are more than 80% effective at preventing hospitalisations in over 80s after one dose
  • Protection against symptomatic COVID in those over 70, four weeks after the first jab, ranged between 57-61% for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and 60-73% for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine
  • For the Pfizer-BioNTech jab, there is evidence it leads to an 83% reduction in deaths from the virus.

Mr Hancock said the fact that the number of hospital admissions was falling faster than that of cases – particularly among the older age groups who were given a jab first – “is a sign that the vaccine is working”.

The rate of decline in deaths among the older age groups is also faster than in the under 80s, the health secretary said.

“This shows, in the real world, across the UK right now that the vaccine is helping both to protect the NHS and to save lives,” he declared.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, one of England’s deputy chief medical officers, said the data “gives us those first glimpses of how, if we are patient, and we give this vaccine programme time to have its full effect, it is going to hopefully take us into a very different world in the next few months”.

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He said that “in time”, he expected the UK’s vaccine rollout to lower levels of the virus, reduce the likelihood of infections affecting the older and more vulnerable and result in milder cases for people in those groups.

But while Professor Van-Tam said “there’s a lot to look forwards to”, the “problem isn’t fixed yet”.

“It’s very tempting to just go, ‘Right, we’ve seen the results, that means the problem is fixed’,” he said.

“The problem isn’t fixed yet but we definitely have identified a way of fixing the problem and the early data show us how to do that and where to advance from here.”

It comes after six cases of a COVID-19 “variant of concern” from Brazil were detected in the United Kingdom.

Despite this, Mr Hancock told the Number 10 briefing that the development would not affect the government’s roadmap out of lockdown.

Schools are set to reopen for all pupils on 8 March, with the health secretary saying: “We do not think there is any need to change the approach on schools because of this new variant.”

Mr Hancock said he was “highly confident” getting children back in the classroom was the “right thing to do”.

“The data points that way, and then we will assess the data before taking step two,” he said.

“The road map is designed to be able to see the data before we take each step, and so we’ve done it in that way in order to be able to have the assurance that we are taking a cautious yet irreversible path out of this pandemic.”

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