The decision to delay second doses of Covid vaccines in an effort to jab more older people has been credited with saving a “large number” of lives after data suggested hospital admissions are being greatly reduced by the rollout.
The “exciting” and “hugely reassuring” results from a Public Health England (PHE) study have indicated that the Pfizer and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines are highly effective in reducing infections.
Protection against developing symptomatic Covid-19 in the over-70s ranged between 57% and 61% for one dose of Pfizer and between 60% and 73% for the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, the study found.
Over-80s who had been vaccinated with one dose of either jab had more than 80% protection against hospital admission, while the Pfizer jab was 85% effective at preventing death from Covid-19.
More data is being analysed on how the Oxford jab prevents death, while figures for the over-70s are expected shortly.
Professor Anthony Harnden, deputy chair of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said the “bold” decision to delay the second dose so more older people could be protected by a single dose more quickly had saved lives.
He said: “These real-world results from Public Health England demonstrate a very good effect from both vaccines after the first dose.
“The Covid vaccination strategy was designed to prevent as many deaths as quickly as possible.
“The bold decision to vaccinate more older people by delaying the second dose has undoubtedly saved a large number of lives.”
Prof Van-Tam said the data “gives us those first glimpses of how, if we are patient, and we give this vaccine programme time to have its full effect, it is going to hopefully take us into a very different world in the next few months”.
Professor Paul Hunter, of the University of East Anglia, described the PHE study results as “hugely reassuring” and echoed praise for the decision to delay second doses.
He said: “This study gives very clear evidence that the UK strategy of delaying the second dose to allow more people to be protected by a first dose was the right approach to reduce the pressure on the NHS and reduce the number of deaths in this (older) age group.”
Professor Azra Ghani, chair in infectious disease epidemiology at Imperial College London, said those who have been jabbed should “feel reassured that they will be highly protected with one dose, but will also further benefit from their second dose regardless of which vaccine they received”.