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‘Extremely promising’: 1st dose of COVID vaccine cuts illness – Al Jazeera English

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Data from two separate studies published in the UK, one in England and another in Scotland, have shown vaccines against COVID-19 are effective in cutting disease transmission and hospitalisations starting from the first dose.

Analysis from Public Health England (PHE) published on Monday shows that the vaccine manufactured by Pfizer-BioNTech reduces the risk of catching infection by more than 70 percent after the first dose. That risk is reduced by 85 percent after a second dose.

“Overall, we’re seeing a really strong effect to reducing any infection, asymptomatic and symptomatic,” PHE’s strategic response director Susan Hopkins told a media briefing.

In a statement posted on social media, Matt Hancock, the secretary of state for Health & Social Care, welcomed the development as “incredibly good news”.

“It shows that the vaccines work and it shows that vaccines save lives.”

The public health body’s study of real-world data also shows those vaccinated people who do become infected are far less likely to die or be hospitalised.

Hospitalisation and death from the virus is reduced by more than 75 percent in those who have received a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, according to the analysis.

The UK is among the world’s hardest-hit countries by the COVID-19 pandemic, with almost 121,000 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

It was the first nation to begin mass vaccinations in December and more than 17 million people – roughly one-third of the UK’s adult population – have now received at least their first dose of the vaccine.

“We will see much more data over the coming weeks and months but we should be very encouraged by these initial findings,” Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at Public Health England, said.

‘National evidence’

At the same time, a study in Scotland has shown the Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccinations have led to a reduction in COVID-19 admissions to hospitals after the first dose.

The study, led by the University of Edinburgh, found that by the fourth week after receiving the initial dose the Pfizer vaccine reduced the risk of hospitalisation from COVID-19 by up to 85 percent.

A separate study in Scotland has shown that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine reduced the risk of hospitalisation by 94 percent [File: Luca Zennaro/EPA]

The Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine reduced the risk by 94 percent.

“These results are very encouraging and have given us great reasons to be optimistic for the future,” Dr Aziz Sheikh, who led the research, said in a statement.

“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,” he added.

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

It found that vaccination was associated with an 81-percent reduction in hospitalisation risk in the fourth week among those aged 80 years and over, when the results for both vaccines were combined.

‘Extremely promising’

The project, which used patient data to track the pandemic and the vaccine roll out in real-time, analysed a dataset covering the entire Scottish population of 5.4 million between December 8 and February 15.

Some 1.14 million vaccines were administered to 21 percent of the Scottish population during the period.

Some 650,000 people were given the Pfizer vaccine while 490,000 had the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

It is the first research to describe the effect of the vaccinations on preventing severe illness resulting in hospitalisation across an entire country.

Previous results about vaccine efficacy have come from clinical trials.

The study team said the findings were applicable to other countries using the Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines.

The data reported “is extremely promising,” said Arne Akbar, the president of the British Society for Immunology.

“Although there does seem to be some difference in effectiveness levels measured across age groups, the reduction in hospitalisations for the older age groups is still impressively high,” he said.

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Moderna says waiving IP rights won’t help increase vaccine supply

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Moderna Inc said on Thursday that waiving intellectual property rights on COVID-19 vaccines will not help boost supply in 2021 or 2022, a day after U.S. President Joe Biden backed a proposed waiver that is aimed at giving poorer companies access.

 

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Canada allows Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 12-15

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(Corrects headline and lead to make clear that Canada was not the first nation as stated by Canadian officials, adds context from Pfizer in fourth paragraph)

By David Ljunggren

OTTAWA (Reuters) –Canada is authorizing the use of Pfizer Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine for use in children aged 12 to 15, the first doses to be allowed in the country for people that young, the federal health ministry said on Wednesday.

Supriya Sharma, a senior adviser at the Canadian federal health ministry, said the Pfizer vaccine, produced with German partner BioNTech SE, was safe and effective in the younger age group.

“We are starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel,” she told reporters.

Sharma and a health ministry spokesman said Canada was the first country to grant such an approval, but a Canadian representative for Pfizer later said Algeria permitted use of the vaccine for this age group in April. The Canadian health ministry said it had no information about the discrepancy.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected to take a similar step “very soon,” U.S. health officials said.

Separately, authorities reported the third death of a Canadian from a rare blood clot condition after receiving AstraZeneca PLC’s’s COVID-19 vaccine. The man, who was in his sixties, lived in the Atlantic province of New Brunswick.

Jennifer Russell, the chief medical officer of health in New Brunswick, said the province would continue using the AstraZeneca vaccine. Alberta reported a death from clotting on Tuesday and Quebec announced one on April 27.

“There will be rare cases where thrombosis will occur. However, the risks remain minimal compared to the risks, complications and potential consequences of COVID-19,” Russell told reporters.

Canada‘s federal government has bought tens of millions of doses of vaccines but critics complain the pace of inoculation is lagging due to bottlenecks in the 10 provinces, which are responsible for administering the doses.

Alberta will become the first province to offer COVID-19 vaccines to everyone aged 12 and over from May 10, Premier Jason Kenney said on Wednesday, a day after he introduced tighter public health measures to combat a third wave of the pandemic.

Alberta, home to Canada‘s oil patch, has the highest rate per capita of COVID-19 in the country, with nearly 24,000 active cases and 150 people in intensive care.

Around 20% of the 1,249,950 cases of COVID-19 in Canada have been reported in people under the age of 19. Canada has recorded 24,396 deaths.

(Additional reporting by Allison Martell in Toronto and Nia Williams in Calgary;Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Sonya Hepinstall)

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Younger people filling up COVID-19 intensive care

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By Anthony Boadle

BRASILIA (Reuters) –COVID-19 infections continue to spread fast across the Americas as a result of relaxed prevention measures and intensive care units are filling up with younger people, the director of the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) said on Wednesday.

In Brazil, mortality rates have doubled among those younger than 39, quadrupled among those in their 40s and tripled for those in their 50s since December, Carissa Etienne said.

Hospitalization rates among those under 39 years have increased by more than 70% in Chile and in some areas of the United States more people in their 20s are now being hospitalized for COVID-19 than people in their 70s.

“Despite all we learned about this virus in a year, our control efforts are not as strict, and prevention is not as efficient,” Etienne said in a virtual briefing from Washington.

“We are seeing what happens when these measures are relaxed: COVID spreads, cases mount, our health systems become overwhelmed and people die,” she said.

Canada continues to report significant jumps in infections in highly populated provinces such as Ontario as well as in less populated territories of the North and Yukon, home to remote and indigenous communities, according to PAHO.

Puerto Rico and Cuba remain significant drivers of COVID-19 cases in the Caribbean, which is facing a new surge of the virus, PAHO directors said.

Cases are rapidly accelerating in the Guyanas and across Argentina and Colombia, where weekly case counts are five times higher today than they were this time last year and hospitals are reaching capacity in large Colombian cities.

In Central America, Guatemala is seeing significant spikes in cases and Costa Rica is reporting record-high infections.

While vaccines are being rolled out as fast as possible, they are not a short-term solution because they are in short supply, said Etienne, the World Health Organization’s regional director.

(Reporting by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Nick Macfie)

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