he Covid vaccines being rolled out across the UK are reducing the risk of ending up in hospital by about 90 per cent, it was revealed today.
Today’s results are the first to show how the vaccines are working in the “real world” by preventing serious illness across an entire UK nation – raising hopes about the lockdown lifting.
The effectiveness of vaccines in reducing hospitalisations and deaths is one of Boris Johnson’s four key measures for easing restrictions.
Dr Josie Murray, Public Health Scotland lead for the EAVE-II project, said: “The brilliant news is that the vaccine delivery programme in its current format… is working. The other fantastic news is that we are potentially protecting our NHS hospitals.”
The results, which have yet to be peer-reviewed, found that four weeks after receiving the first dose the Pfizer/BNionTech jab reduced the risk of ending up in hospital with Covid by up to 85 per cent.
The Oxford/AstraZeneca jab, which was given to more people over 65, reduced the risk by 94 per cent.
The results were based on the 1.14m first doses given in Scotland between December 8 and February 15, covering 21 per cent of the country’s population. The Pfizer vaccine was received by 650,000 people and the Oxford jab by 490,000.
Lead researcher Professor Aziz Sheikh, of Edinburgh university, said: “These results are very encouraging and have given us great reasons to be optimistic for the future.
“Roll-out of the first vaccine dose now needs to be accelerated globally to help overcome this terrible disease.”
Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England, said: “This research provides encouraging early data on the impact of vaccination on reducing hospitalisations.”
Across the UK, more than 17.5m have received a first jab. In London, 1,727,781 first doses have been given, including a further 40,000 on Saturday. The capital has given the second lowest number of jabs of all seven NHS regions in England.
Today one of the capital’s most senior council leaders warned that black and Asian Londoners were up to three times more likely to refuse or be hesitant about having a Covid jab.
Westminster leader Rachael Robathan also revealed the roll-out was being hampered by “pernicious material” from anti-vaxxers, including the mass leafletting of a housing estate in Pimlico.
About 125,000 Londoners aged 70 or older had not received a jab by the February 14 deadline, with councils such as Tower Hamlets and Hackney reporting poorer take up among black and some Asian residents.
In Westminster, where more than half its residents were born overseas and 40 per cent are of BAME heritage, there have been higher infection and death rates among minority communities, a trend seen across London.
Cllr Robathan said: “The really worrying thing is that it is these BAME communities where the hesitancy, the refusal to have the vaccine, can be as much as three times that of other people in Westminster.”
The Tory-led council is planning to host a public seminar with vaccines deployment minister Nadhim Zahawi next week in a bid to spread reassurance.
Cllr Robathan said: “We are all aware there has been some understandable vaccine hesitancy, particularly among BAME communities.
Vaccines in numbers: 17,582,121 receive first dose
“Only two weeks ago we had the whole of the Churchill [Gardens] estate leafletted with papers saying there is no coronavirus, there is no pressure in the hospitals, there have been no deaths, there is no need to socially distance, there is no need to wear masks.
“We know this is false. We have seen the impact in our communities. We know that this material that is circulating will only harm our communities who most need to be protected.”
NHS Central London CCG, which covers most of Westminster, had given a first dose to only 61 per cent of almost 18,000 residents aged 70 or older, according to the most recent figures to February 14.
The capital’s NHS chiefs are this week urging the third of Londoners aged 65-69 yet to have a jab to come forward.
Younger Londoners in their sixties are due to receive invitations this week, and will be asked to use the mass vaccination centres, such as at the ExCeL centre, at Lord’s cricket ground and near Wembley stadium.
Martin Machray, joint chief nurse for the NHS in London, said: “To the small proportion of people who have been invited but not come forward yet, I would urge you to do so this week.
“Vaccines are the best weapon we have in the fight against coronavirus, and local services are going to great lengths to ensure that local people can get this protection in a safe and convenient place.”