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.
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.
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.
“This is incredibly good news, it shows that the vaccines work and it shows that vaccines save lives.”@MattHancock welcomes @PHE_uk data which shows that hospitalisation and death from #COVID19 is reduced by over 75% after the first dose of the @Pfizer/@BioNTech_Group vaccine. pic.twitter.com/wcACTEHm1Y
— Department of Health and Social Care (@DHSCgovuk) February 22, 2021
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.
Man assaulted nurse over vaccinating his wife: Quebec cops – Toronto Sun
The man accused the nurse of having “vaccinated his wife without his consent” before repeatedly punching the woman in the face, police said.
Sherbrooke police have turned to the public to help track down a man who assaulted a nurse Monday at a local pharmacy.
Police say a man showed up at the office of a nurse assigned to give vaccinations at a pharmacy on 12th Ave. N.
“He was angry and aggressive,” said police spokesperson Martin Carrier.
The man accused the nurse of having “vaccinated his wife without his consent” before repeatedly punching the woman in the face and leaving, police said, adding that the nurse was taken to hospital to treat “serious” injuries to her face.
The man being sought is 30 to 45 years old, of medium build and has a dark complexion. He has short dark hair, dark eyes and “big eyebrows.”
The man spoke French and was wearing a dark sweater and jeans. He wore earrings and had a hand tattooed with what resembled the image of a cross.
Police are urging anyone with any information on the case to call them at 1-800-771-1800.
B.C. reports 759 new COVID-19 cases and 10 deaths, 1 death in Island Health – CHEK
British Columbia health officials on Wednesday reported 759 new COVID-19 cases — including 79 in Island Health — and 10 new deaths since their last update on Sept. 21.
One of the deaths was in Island Health, the province says.
The number of confirmed cases in B.C. is now at 180,937 while the death toll climbs to 1,910.
There are currently 5,458 active cases in the province, 324 people in hospital — 157 of whom are in intensive care. The provincial government says there are 636 active cases in the Island Health region.
Of the new cases identified, 79 were in Island Health, 233 were in Interior Health, 214 were in Fraser Health, 129 were in Northern Health, 101 were in Vancouver Coastal Health and three were people who normally reside outside of the country.
A total of 173,215 people in B.C. have recovered from COVID-19 while 7,739,828 doses of vaccine have been administered province-wide.
Today’s data was released as a statement to the media.
According to the latest update on Island Health’s dashboard shows that there are 563 active cases — 44 in North Island, 180 in Central Island, and 339 in South Island — on Vancouver Island.
Thirty-five people in the region are currently in hospital with COVID-19, 20 of whom are in critical care.
Over the past 24 hours, there were 188 recoveries, 1,358 new tests for COVID-19 performed, and 2,370 doses of vaccine administered in the region. Of those doses, 37 were AstraZeneca, 1,409 were Moderna and 924 doses were Pfizer.
A total of 1,289,871 vaccine doses — 619,306 of those are second doses — have now been administered on Vancouver Island. This includes 33,465 doses of AstraZeneca, 345,767 doses of Moderna and 910,639 doses of Pfizer.
Since the onset of the pandemic, there have been 8,020 cases reported, 59 deaths, 355 total hospitalizations, and 7,254 recoveries recorded on Vancouver Island.
Cases and deaths continue to climb this month
With Wednesday’s announcement of 79 new cases and yet another death in Island Health, the region has now recorded 11 deaths and seen a 22 per cent increase in new cases since the beginning of September.
Since Sept. 1, total hospitalizations on the Island have risen 23 per cent while the total number of recoveries has increased by 22 per cent.
When it comes to active cases, the data isn’t as clear due to major discrepancies between the two main reporting agencies, Island Health and the BCCDC.
Island Health’s data shows that active cases in the region have increased by 31 per cent since the beginning of the month, while the BCCDC’s data shows that active cases have only increased by 18 per cent during the same period.
However, Island Health is the only agency to provide daily updates on active cases with a breakdown by region and based on their latest data update, active cases in the South Island are the highest they have ever been.
More concerning, perhaps, is that active cases on the South Island have increased 113 per cent since Sept. 8. Active cases in Central Island have only managed to climb by 10 per cent since Sept. 8 and on the brighter side, active cases in the North Island have decreased by 37 per cent during the same period.
The vaccine card effect on Vancouver Island
Time — and likely one’s perspective — will only tell whether the B.C. vaccine card system proves to be effective here on the Island. But if the provincial government’s goal was strictly to get more shots in people’s arms for the first time, then it appears to be working to a degree.
That number had climbed to 649,293 — slightly more than 1 per cent — by Sept. 1, less than two weeks before the B.C. vaccine card system was to come into effect.
But by Sept. 22, more than a week after the B.C. vaccine card system was implemented, that figure had increased to 670,565 first doses, a five per cent increase since Aug. 23.
That may not seem like a lot, but that does mean 30,139 people in the region opted to get the first dose of vaccine in less than a month.
However, it is worth pointing out that the total number of vaccine doses — first and second doses combined — administered on Vancouver Island has risen by 3.3 per cent since Sept. 1 and just 1.5 per cent since Sept. 13, the day the B.C. vaccine card coming into force.
New Zealand’s Ardern says lockdowns can end with high vaccine uptake
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Thursday the country should aim for a 90%-plus rate of inoculation, and could drop strict coronavirus lockdown measures once enough people were vaccinated.
New Zealand eliminated COVID-19 last year and remained largely virus-free until an outbreak of the highly infectious Delta variant in August led to a nationwide lockdown.
With its biggest city Auckland still in lockdown and new cases being reported every day, Ardern said vaccinations will replace lockdowns as the main tool against the virus, allowing authorities to isolate only those who are infected.
“If that rate (of vaccinations) is high enough then we will be able to move away from lockdowns as a tool,” she said.
The highest possible vaccine rates will give the most freedoms, Ardern said, adding that the country should be aiming for a 90% plus rate of vaccination.
After a sluggish start to its vaccination campaign, some 40% of adult New Zealanders are fully vaccinated and about 75% have had at least one dose.
Authorities reported 15 new cases of COVID-19 on Wednesday, all in Auckland, taking the total number of cases in the current outbreak to 1,123.
The Director General of Health, Ashley Bloomfield warned earlier this week that New Zealand may not get to zero COVID cases again.
(Reporting by Praveen Menon; editing by Richard Pullin)
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