COVID-19 vaccines cut risk of severe infection, Scotland study shows 

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Scotland’s vaccination drive appears to be markedly reducing the risk of hospitalisation for COVID-19, suggesting that both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca shots are highly effective in preventing severe infections, preliminary study findings showed on Monday.

Results of the study covering the entire Scottish population of 5.4 million showed that by the fourth week after the initial dose, the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines cut the risk of hospitalisation by up to 85 per cent and 94 per cent respectively.

“These results are very encouraging and have given us great reasons to be optimistic for the future,” said Aziz Sheikh, a professor at the University of Edinburgh who co-led the study.

Sheikh cautioned that the results are preliminary and have yet to be peer-reviewed by independent scientists, but told a media briefing: “I am very encouraged. We now have national evidence … that vaccination provides protection against COVID-19 hospitalisations.”

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He expected other countries using the same vaccines and similar roll-out strategies – such as England and Wales – would see a similar positive impact in reducing numbers being hospitalised.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson will on Monday announce how he will ease lockdown restrictions as cases decline, aided by one of the world’s fastest vaccine roll-outs.

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Independent experts welcomed the Scottish findings.

“The primary aim of all vaccination campaigns is to stop people getting seriously ill and save lives,” said Arne Akbar, president of the British Society for Immunology. “This initial data … is extremely promising.”

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Data was gathered between Dec. 8 and Feb. 15, when 1.14 million vaccines were administered and 21 per cent of Scotland’s population had received a first dose.

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Among those aged 80 and over – one of the highest risk groups – vaccination was associated with an 81 per cent reduction in hospitalisation risk in the fourth week, when results for both vaccines were combined.

(Reporting by Kate Kelland, editing by Mark Heinrich and Giles Elgood)

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