London, Mar 1 (efe-epa).- A single dose of the Covid-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer-BioNTech and University of Oxford-AstraZeneca can yield an 80 percent reduction in hospitalizations among people over the age of 80, according to data published Monday by Public Health England.
The shot’s effect starts kicking in around three or four weeks after vaccination, according to the data from that public health agency on the most elderly segment of the United Kingdom’s population, the first to receive the jab.
“This is extremely good news,” Health Secretary Matt Hancock said in a press conference, adding that the results of the study “may also help to explain why the number of Covid admissions to intensive care units among people over 80 in the UK have dropped to single figures in the last couple of weeks.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s administration, which launched its vaccine rollout in early December, opted to delay administering a second dose of the Pfizer and AstraZeneca jabs by up to 12 weeks with a view to achieving a certain degree of immunity among the population.
That decision was made based on confidence that the first dose of the vaccine would ensure an adequate level of protection.
To date, the United Kingdom has administered 20.27 million doses of the vaccine, while just 815,816 people have received the full two-dose series.
A deputy chief medical officer for England, Jonathan Van-Tam, said the data that was released Monday and is still pending review by a scientific journal indicates that the two vaccines now available in the UK reduce the appearance of symptoms in Covid-19 sufferers 70 and over by more than 60 percent.
That level of effectiveness is seen 35 days after the first dose in the case of the Pfizer vaccine and appears to rise to as high as 70 percent after that same lapse of time in the case of the AstraZeneca shot, Van-Tam said.
The Public Health England data showed that a single dose of the Pfizer jab was linked to an 85 percent decrease in fatalities among people 70 and over. No mortality data was provided for the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was launched in the UK at a later date.
These figures provide the “first glimpses of how, if we’re patient and give this vaccine program time to have its full effect,” it is going to hopefully take us into a very different world” in the coming months, Van-Tam said.
Separately, Hancock confirmed that six cases of a coronavirus variant first detected in Manaus, Brazil, have been observed in the UK. That strain is a cause of concern because of its potential vaccine resistance.
A special surge testing program has been launched in the English county of South Gloucestershire, where two of the cases were detected. Authorities also are searching for a person who tested positive for that variant but cannot be identified due to an incomplete test registration card.
Hancock said scientists are continuing to work on developing a third vaccine dose that will be effective against the new coronavirus strains.
He also predicted that people could be given a Covid vaccine every year just as they now receive an annual flu shot. EFE-EPA