Tue 23 February 2021:
A single dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine can reduce coronavirus transmission in the wider population as well as infection in an individual, research has revealed for the first time.
The vaccine provides up to 70 per cent protection against asymptomatic infection in working age adults, and cuts the chance of hospital admission and death from Covid-19 by more than 75 per cent among the over-80s.
The research led by Public Health England (PHE) is the world’s largest study of asymptomatic infections among working age people and suggests that vaccines will make a significant contribution to herd immunity.
The findings on asymptomatic infections are crucial because without vaccines they can fuel up to a third of cases, allowing the virus to spread undetected in the community.
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The research also shows the vaccine is just as effective against the Kent variant as well as the original strain of coronavirus in cutting hospitalisations, deaths and transmission.
A similar study by Oxford University earlier this month found that the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab reduced transmission of coronavirus by as much as two thirds, while research in Israel has found that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine cut hospital admissions and deaths significantly.
However this new PHE research is the most comprehensive study to cover working age adults as well as asymptomatic transmission in relation to the Pfizer/BioNTech jab.
The PHE research included an ongoing programme called SIREN (Sarscov2 Immunity & REinfection EvaluatioN) which monitors coronavirus infection rates among tens of thousands of healthcare workers in England.
The SIREN study authors, who examined the regular test results of 23,000 NHS staff at 104 hospitals, conclude that the Pfizer vaccine “effectively prevents both symptomatic and asymptomatic infection in working age adults”.
They add: “We provide strong evidence that vaccinating working age adults will substantially reduce asymptomatic and symptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection and therefore reduce transmission of infection in the population.
“We found a vaccine effectiveness, at a given site, of at least 70 per cent overall… against both asymptomatic and symptomatic infection, from 21 days post-first dose of the BNT162b2 [Pfizer/BioNTech] vaccine.”
However, they added that the vaccine “does not eliminate infection risk completely” and advises that PPE equipment, social distancing and regular asymptomatic testing continues in hospitals and other healthcare settings.
Among the over-80s, Covid testing data on more than 12,000 people found at least 57 per cent protection against coronavirus 28 days after vaccination with a single dose of Pfizer, rising to 88 per cent after a second dose.
Among this age group, there was also thought to be at least 75 per cent protection against severe disease.
The risk of needing to go to hospital was 41 per cent lower among older people who were vaccinated compared to those who were unvaccinated, while the risk of death was at least 57 per cent lower.
Overall, the vaccine cut the chance of needing to go to hospital and death by more than 75 per cent, PHE said.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “This crucial report shows vaccines are working. It is extremely encouraging to see evidence that the Pfizer vaccine offers a high degree of protection against coronavirus.
“This new evidence shows that the jab protects you, and protects those around you.
“It is important that we see as much evidence as possible on the vaccine’s impact on protection and on transmission, and we will continue to publish evidence as we gather it.”
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