Vaccine roll-out working, first national study suggests

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Vaccination has been linked to a substantial reduction in the risk of COVID-19 admissions to Scotland’s hospitals, landmark research suggests.

The study is the first to describe across an entire country the effect of the Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca jabs in the community on preventing severe illness resulting in hospitalisation. Previous results about vaccine efficacy have come from clinical trials.

The study is funded by the COVID-19 rapid research response by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

To provide real-time information in the pandemic, the preliminary results have been posted on the SSRN preprint server and submitted to a journal to undergo peer review.

By the fourth week after receiving the initial dose, the Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines were shown to reduce the risk of hospitalisation from COVID-19 in up to 85% and 94%, respectively.

Among those aged 80 years and over, one of the highest risk groups, vaccination was associated with an 81% reduction in hospitalisation risk in the fourth week. This was when the results for both vaccines were combined.

As part of the EAVE II project, researchers analysed a dataset covering the entire Scottish population of 5.4 million. The EAVE II project uses patient data to track the pandemic and the vaccine roll out in real time.

Researchers were involved from:

  • The University of Edinburgh
  • University of Strathclyde
  • University of Aberdeen
  • University of Glasgow
  • University of St Andrew’s
  • Public Health Scotland (PHS).

Data on vaccine effect was gathered between 8 December and 15 February. During this period, 1.14 million vaccines were administered and 21% of the Scottish population had received a first dose based on Scottish Government prioritisation.

The Pfizer vaccine was received by some 650,000 people and 490,000 have had the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

Researchers analysed data for every week during this period, including:

  • GP records on vaccination
  • hospital admissions
  • death registrations
  • laboratory test results.

They compared the outcomes of those who had received their first jab with those who had not.

The study team says the findings are applicable to other countries that are using the Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines. They caution that the data does not allow for comparisons between the vaccines.

Lead researcher Professor Aziz Sheikh, from the University of Edinburgh, 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.

Roll-out of the first vaccine dose now needs to be accelerated globally to help overcome this terrible disease.

This work was funded by the Medical Research Council (MRC), the NIHR and Health Data Research UK (HDR UK), and supported by the Scottish Government.

Professor Fiona Watt, Executive Chair of MRC, which helped fund the study, said:

The discovery of very high protection before the second dose of the vaccines is very welcome news. These promising early results are a testament to the extraordinary efforts of the everyone who worked so hard to develop the vaccines and roll them out with unprecedented speed, and to these researchers who’ve analysed Scottish health data in near real-time.

Professor Chris Whitty, Chief Medical Officer for England and co-lead for the NIHR, said:

This research provides encouraging early data on the impact of vaccination on reducing hospitalisations.


Source: UK Research and Innovation.

Launched in April 2018, UKRI is a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS). They bring together the seven disciplinary research councils, Research England, which is responsible for supporting research and knowledge exchange at higher education institutions in England, and the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK. For more details go to: https://www.ukri.org/

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