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This is the coronavirus vaccine data everybody needs to see right now

Published Mar 1st, 2021 12:06PM EST
Coronavirus Vaccine
Image: tampatra/Adobe

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  • More than 20 million people in the UK have received at least one vaccine dose as of today.
  • The UK mutation drove a record COVID-19 wave that peaked on January 8th, a few weeks after the nation’s vaccination campaign first started.
  • A variety of studies show that both the Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccines effectively prevent severe illness and death in a country where the most infectious coronavirus strain so far is dominant.

A massive study from Israel brought the world the “real-life” proof that COVID-19 vaccines work well at preventing severe disease, hospitalizations, and death. The Phase 3 trials were also real-life tests, of course. The volunteers in the drug and placebo groups lived their everyday lives after the injections, with researchers waiting to see whether the drugs worked. But some people who are hesitant about coronavirus vaccines erroneously cite the limited scope of those Phase 3 trials, which include at least 30,000 people for each separate drug that has received emergency use authorization.

But this new Israeli study included 1.2 million people, comprised of nearly 600,000 citizens who received the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and a control group of the same size. The conclusions were practically identical to Pfizer’s Phase 3 trial, showing the drug works as intended. The researchers also found out that the Pfizer/BioNTech is quite effective after just a single dose. Also important is the fact that the vaccine works against the mutated UK strain (B.1.1.7), which became dominant in Israel as the country ramped up vaccinations.

More good news now comes from the UK, a country that experienced a massive COVID-19 wave in early January, just as vaccination campaigns started. Two months and 20 million people later, data from the UK proves that the vaccines work. The number of cases and deaths have dropped significantly in the at-risk groups over the past few weeks. This is all the more important considering the UK is the home to the B.1.1.7 variant.

More than 20 million people received their first coronavirus vaccine dose in the UK since the COVID-19 vaccination campaign started in mid-December. That’s almost a third of the country’s population. The UK was first to authorize the Pfizer/BioNTech and AstraZeneca/Oxford drugs — the latter is also being used in other countries, but not in the US.

Just as the vaccination campaign started, the UK faced the uncontrolled spread of a new mutation dubbed B.1.1.7, which peaked on January 8th when the country registered more than 68,000 cases and over 1,300 deaths in a single day. Those figures dropped to around 6,000 cases and 144 deaths on February 28th. Additional data that CNBC collected provides more insight into the direct effects of the vaccine. The number of weekly COVID-19 deaths in Scotland dropped significantly in the over 85 age group as the vaccination campaign ramped up.

A new study from the Imperial College London shows that almost 14% of the British population has coronavirus antibodies. People who were vaccinated had high antibody levels. A different study showed that the highest percentage of people testing positive for antibodies was in the group of people over 80 of age (41%). This is a likely result of the vaccination campaign that started with at-risk people, including the elderly.

Scientists gauged the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine’s efficacy after a single shot, finding that a single dose is 57% effective after 28 days in people 80 and over, and 88% effective seven days after the second dose. The UK was one of the first countries that changed vaccination protocols, choosing to inject as many people as possible with the first dose and delaying the second dose to up to 12 weeks rather than the 3 weeks that Pfizer recommends.

According to a different study in the UK, the AstraZeneca/Oxford drug is also effective against COVID-19. The study showed that the Pfizer and AstraZeneca drugs were 85% and 94% effective at reducing hospitalization risk 28-34 days after both shots. The efficacy from one shot was found to be 68% (35-41 days) for AstraZeneca’s vaccine and 64% (over 42 days) for the Pfizer drug.

While the pandemic won’t end anytime soon and the UK has not reached herd immunity, all this early data shows that the coronavirus vaccines can protect against severe COVID-19 and prevent deaths. The information is even critical considering the particularities of the British coronavirus epidemic. The country has been battling the B.1.1.7 mutation in the last few months. Also, the UK is the first country to have made a significant change to vaccination protocol in the early weeks of 2021.

Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.