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Matt Hancock Says A Single Covid-19 Vaccine Dose Is 80% Effective At Preventing Hospitalisations In Over-70s

A new Public Health England study shows the huge effectiveness of the coronavirus vaccines in preventing hospitalisations (PA)

4 min read

The health secretary has praised a “seriously encouraging” study which shows a single dose of either the Oxford or Pfizer coronavirus vaccines leads to an 80% reduction in hospitalisations among the over-70s.

Matt Hancock said the new data from Public Health England also shows the Oxford jab offered 60 to 73% protection against symptomatic Covid in people over 70 four weeks after a first dose, while the Pfizer vaccine gave between 57% and 61% protection.

The news supports the government’s decision to delay the second dose of the vaccine to 12 weeks, after it was originally planned people would receive a second dose after around three weeks, in order to begin immunising more of the elderly and vulnerable more quickly.

“This is seriously encouraging. It shows the power of science,” Hancock told a Downing Street press conference on Monday.  

Appearing alongside him, England's deputy chief medical officer Professor Jonathan 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".

The PHE study also says there is also evidence the Pfizer vaccine leads to an 83% reduction in deaths from Covid-19.

Professor Van-Tam said he expected that "in time" the vaccines would lower levels of Covid-19 across the country, reduce infections in the older and more vulnerable populations, and to reduce the severity of infections.

"There's a lot to look forwards too," Van-Tam said.

"It's very tempting to just go, 'Right, we've seen the results, that means the problem is fixed'.

"The problem isn't fixed yet, but we definitely have identified a way of fixing the problem and the early data show us how to do that and where to advance from here."

He was speaking the day after the milestone of 20 million people receiving their first dose of the vaccine was met.

New data released this afternoon shows that figure is now up to 20,275,451, after a rise of 185,900.

The total number of jabs delivered is 21,091,267 when you add the 815,816 second doses that have been administered.But the government also confirmed that a further 104 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Monday, bringing the UK total to 122,953.

It is the lowest daily figure since October 26, when there were 102 further deaths.

The rolling seven-day total for Covid deaths is at 2,196, down 35% on the previous week.

Coronavirus infections also appear to have reduced significantly. The government said as of 9am today there had been a further 5,455 lab-confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the UK, the lowest daily figure since 20 September last year.

It brings the total positive tests to 4,182,009 since the pandemic started, with the seven-day total down by almost 30%.

Health officials are still trying to track down the person who tested positive for the "variant of concern" from Brazil but who did not provide their details to the NHS.

Public Health England has identified six UK cases of the P1 variant, first detected in the city of Manaus, three in England and three in Scotland.

It is feared to spread more rapidly than the original virus and could be more capable of evading existing vaccines.

The discovery of the cases has led to accusations that stricter border restrictions should have been imposed on international arrivals earlier than they were.

Although direct travel from Brazil has been halted, UK nationals or residents have continued to be allowed to return from the South American country using indirect fights.Criticism has focused on the fact the requirement for people travelling to the UK from 33 "red list" countries including Brazil to carry out a 10-day period of quarantine in a hotel was only brought in on 15 February, around a month after concerns about the Manaus variant became widespread.

Boris Johnson has defended the government's measures. "We have got one of the toughest border regimes anywhere in the world for stopping people coming in to this country who may have variants of concern,” he said on Monday. 

Asked if the government moved too slowly in introducing border restrictions, the Prime Minister stood firm. "I don't think so, we moved as fast as we could to get that going," he said. 

"It's a very tough regime – you come here, you immediately get transported to a hotel where you are kept for 10 days, 11 days.

"You have to test on day two, you have to test on day eight, and it's designed to stop the spread of new variants while we continue to roll out the vaccination programme.

"We don't have any reason at the present time to think that our vaccines are ineffective against these new variants of all types."

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