Covid Vaccines in U.K. Show Positive Results After One Dose

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New findings in the U.K., the first country in the western world to roll out Covid-19 vaccines, show the shots provide a high level of protection against infection, illness and death after a single dose.

Initial data in medical workers show the Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE vaccine reduces the risk of infection by more than 70% with one dose -- or 85% after the second dose -- according to Public Health England. The findings suggest the shot helps interrupt transmission, officials said.

“We’re showing that not only are you reducing symptomatic infection, you are reducing the number of those with asymptomatic infection as well,” Susan Hopkins, strategic response director to the health authority in England, said in a briefing. “Reducing infection is key to reducing transmission.”

That report, along with separate findings in Scotland, highlight the significant impact the inoculations are already having in countries with the most advanced campaigns to protect their populations. The Pfizer vaccine also appeared to stop the vast majority of recipients in Israel from becoming infected, according to a draft publication confirmed by a person familiar with the work.

Variant Protection

Hospitalizations and deaths from Covid-19 are reduced by more than 75% in those who have received a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, the preliminary findings by Public Health England show. The vaccine also shows high levels of protection against the variant, called B.1.1.7, first identified in southeast England, officials said.

The results should further ease concerns about the U.K.’s decision to delay second doses of the two-shot Pfizer and AstraZeneca Plc vaccines to speed up protection for more people. Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday pledged to reopen England’s nonessential stores and outdoor hospitality from mid-April as he outlines his goal of fully restarting the economy from June.

Even with highly effective vaccines being rolled out “it’s important to remember that a large number of people in the population remain unprotected,” the U.K.’s chief scientific adviser, Patrick Vallance, said in the briefing. “The sooner you open up everything, the higher the risk of a bigger resurgence. The slower you do it the better.”

The data in Scotland showed the shot developed by AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford cut hospital admissions by as much as 94% by the fourth week after a single dose, with the one from Pfizer leading to a reduction of as much as 85%. Researchers in Scotland compared outcomes for patients who had received a first shot with results for those who had not. Among those ages 80 and over, one of the highest-risk groups, vaccination was associated with an 81% reduction in hospitalization across both vaccines.

Symptomatic Cases

The analysis released by Public Health England indicates that one dose of the Pfizer vaccine is 57% effective against symptomatic Covid-19 in people over 80 years old, with that protection kicking in about three to four weeks after a shot is given. Initial data suggest the second dose improves protection to more than 85%.

Health authorities in England are also monitoring the real-world impact of the AstraZeneca vaccine and will publish findings later, but early signals suggest it is providing “good levels” of protection from the first dose, they said.

So far, more than 17.5 million people have had a first dose, about a third of all adults in the U.K. The country also has Europe’s highest death toll from the virus, at more than 120,000, but hospitalizations have fallen by more than half from a January peak.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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