Two doses of Pfizer's vaccine is '94% effective at blocking Covid'

Two doses of Pfizer’s vaccine is 94% effective at blocking Covid symptoms in over-55s, finds major study in Israel

  • Suggests Pfizer jab works almost as well in real world as it did in clinical trials 
  • Study on 600,000 found patients also 92% less likely to develop severe illness
  • Findings will be a huge boost to ministers’ lockdown-easing plans in the UK

Two doses of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine is 94 per cent effective at stopping over-55s from falling unwell with the disease, according to a major study in Israel.

The data of more than half a million people who received two shots of the jab found patients were also 92 per cent less likely to develop severe illness. 

The study, which suggests Pfizer’s vaccine works almost as well in the real world as it did in clinical trials, compared 600,000 patients given two doses of the jab against a similar-sized group who had matching medical histories but were not inoculated. 

The findings will be a boost to lockdown-easing plans in the UK, where ministers are waiting for concrete evidence the jabs work before lifting restrictions. The vaccines do not need to prevent symptomatic infection entirely to end the lockdown, though it would be an added bonus. Their main purpose is to drive down hospital rates and ease pressure on the NHS. 

Researchers from Israel’s largest healthcare provider, Clalit, who led the project, said Pfizer/BioNTech’s coronavirus jab was ‘even more effective two weeks or more after the second shot’ and worked in all age groups. 

This will be another boost to officials running Britain’s vaccination programme, who delayed giving Brits the second dose in order to get wider vaccine coverage quicker after an outbreak of the highly-infectious Kent variant over winter.  

So far more than 15million people in the UK have been given a single dose of either the Pfizer or Oxford University jabs since the programme started at the beginning of December. 

Israel is only using the Pfizer vaccine and insists people must get the jab three weeks apart. Britain has said people must get their second shot within 12 weeks of the first.  

Israel is dishing out more jabs per person than any other country, followed by the UAE and Britain

So far more than 15million people in the UK have been given a single dose of either the Pfizer or Oxford University jabs since the programme started at the beginning of December

UK ministers announced over the weekend the number of Covid deaths in over-85s is falling twice as fast it is in younger Brits, in the first sign of the vaccine drive taking effect

The 15m includes over-70s, care homes residents, health and social care staff and people who are extremely clinically vulnerable to Covid, including patients with terminal illnesses.

Over-60s in some areas leading the way in the vaccine roll-out have already been contacted. NHS bosses say local health teams can make their own way down the priority list, so long as they have attempted to reach everyone above them.   

Mr Hancock said today uptake of the vaccine so far had been ‘much higher than expected’, with more than 90 per cent of over-70s turning up to their appointments.

The figure was ‘a little bit lower than 90 per cent’ among healthcare staff, he said, and only around two-thirds of social care workers have had the vaccine.    

Over the weekend data showed the number of Covid deaths in over-85s was falling twice as fast it is in younger Brits, in the first sign of the vaccine drive taking effect. 

But Mr Hancock said today it was still too early to see a clear-cut effect because of how long it can take for immunity to kick in and for patients to fall seriously ill.  

Meanwhile, experts at the Weizmann Institute of Science who have been assessing national data in Israel, said there had been a sharp decline of hospitalisations for the first time for people aged 55 and older. 

Ran Balicer, Clalit’s chief innovation officer, said the study ‘shows unequivocally that Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine is extremely effective in the real world a week after the second dose, just as it was found to be in the clinical study.’ 

Trials showed it was 95 per cent effective at stopping symptomatic infection.

Efficacy is normally always higher in controlled studies because researchers use more young and healthy people to make the trials run smoothly and quickly.   

It comes as England’s Covid vaccine roll-out enters its fifth phase today as ministers discuss plans to lead the country out of lockdown.

In another big step towards a return to normality, people aged 65 and over and younger people in at-risk groups will now be offered the Covid jab.   

The 10 Covid vaccine priority groups in the UK, set out by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation

What are the UK priority groups for vaccinations? 

1. Residents in a care home for older adults and staff working in care homes for older adults

2. All those 80 years of age and over and frontline health and social care workers

3. All those 75 years of age and over

4. All those 70 years of age and over and clinically extremely vulnerable individuals (not including pregnant women and those under 16 years of age)

5. All those 65 years of age and over

6. Adults aged 16 to 65 years in an at-risk group 

7. All those 60 years of age and over

8. All those 55 years of age and over

9. All those 50 years of age and over

10. Rest of the population

Almost 1.2million letters are due to have landed on the doorsteps of over-65s and the clinically vulnerable over the weekend, asking people to log onto the national booking service, NHS England has said. 

A further 1.2million are due to arrive this week, with those to receive a letter able to choose from more than 100 vaccination hubs or almost 200 pharmacy services. 

Wales, with its much smaller population than England’s, started inviting over-50s today. Similarly , Northern Ireland has been inviting those aged 65 to 69 to book a vaccination at seven regional centres since the end of January. 

Scotland, which has been accused of moving too slow with its slow roll out, is still to offer the jab to all four top priority groups. 

Last night, Mr Johnson described the country’s rollout – the third best in the world in terms of vaccination rate – as an ‘extraordinary feat’. He also said that the country can go forward ‘with great confidence’. 

And, in a further boost to millions of beleaguered Britons, ministers are set to discuss plans to allow for shops to re-open, families to be re-united and self-catering staycations to be given the go ahead if Covid-19 infection rates continue to plummet amid the vaccine rollout.

Plans to ease lockdown were boosted yesterday by figures showing the dramatic impact vaccines are already having as Boris Johnson last night confirmed the country had hit its target of 15million vaccinations ahead of schedule.

The Prime Minister said the number of new cases has already dropped ‘very considerably’ preparing the way for lockdown measures to be relaxed.

It is thought that this could mean the re-opening of High Street shops within weeks as well as the easing of restrictions on outdoor exercise and socialising.

Ministers are also said to be considering plans to allow for families of a single household to travel across the UK for an Easter holiday in self-catered accommodation.

It has led to growing hope that families will be able to meet outside by Easter as early as next month to allow children to reunite with their grandparents.

It comes as Health Secretary Matt Hancock set out yet another ambitious goal as he aims to roll out 32 million jabs to all those at risk in just 10 weeks. 

After the over-65s and 16-64s with underlying health conditions – two groups which together contain more than 10 million people – the Government aims to vaccinate the 55-60s and then the over 50s by the end of April.

The remaining adult population, around 21million people, will then be offered their jabs by autumn. 

Boris Johnson said last week that it was too early to book holidays as he urged people to wait until the government had issued a ‘road map’ out of lockdown.

But there is now renewed optimism sparked by the UK achieving its landmark target of vaccinating 15 million a day early – hailed by the Prime Minister as an ‘extraordinary feat’.

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