Health secretary Mat Hancock has hailed the effectiveness of Covid-19 vaccines which reduces the risk of illness and hospitalisation in older adults by up to 80%.
Data released by the government has shown that a single dose of the AstraZeneca or Pfizer vaccine significantly cuts the likelihood of people aged over 70 becoming seriously ill.
Hancock told today’s Downing Street coronavirus press briefing that the data is “seriously encouraging” and urged people: “When the call comes – get the jab.”
‘Glimpse of a very different world in the next few months’
Deputy chief medical officer professor Jonathan Van-Tam, speaking alongside the health secretary at today’s briefing, urged people to maintain caution but said the “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”.
Today’s figures are based on more than seven million people aged over 70, who have been vaccinated and show that the Oxford/AstraZeneca is actually slightly more effective than the BioNtech/Pfizer.
Britain’s approach ‘clearly vindicated’, says Van-Tam
The data from Public Health England shows the effectiveness of a vaccine jab kicks in three to four weeks after the dose is administered and follows similar findings released last week by Public Health Scotland and PHE and described then as “spectacular”.
More than 20 million people have so far received a vaccine and Van-Tam said the data “clearly vindicated” Britain’s approach of vaccinating older people with a single dose.
Hancock said the number of hospitalisations is falling faster than the rate of infections and added that fewer than 10 intensive care unit (ICU) admissions per day now involve people aged over 80.
“These results may,” said the health secretary, “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, which is something I know that we all welcome.
The figures not only show massive cuts to hospitalisation numbers and risks of serious illness for older people, they also show a single dose of the Pfizer vaccine is 85% effective at preventing death with Covid-19 – there is insufficient data at present for findings to be drawn about the AstraZeneca jab’s effectiveness.
Despite the hugely positive news of the vaccines’ effectiveness, a Sage scientist has warned that challenges from mutant variants of the virus – such as the Brazilian variant discovered in the UK – could mean lockdown restrictions being tightened rather than lifted.
The daily toll of people who died within 28 days of a positive test for Covid-19 is 104, taking the total to 122,953. The total for where Covid-19 is mentioned on the death certificate is 135,613, up to February 12.