Covid: Vaccine programme linked to substantial reduction in hospital admissions in Scotland

A vaccination centre in Scotland. Credit: PA

The Covid-19 vaccination programme has been linked to a substantial reduction in hospital admissions in Scotland, researchers have found in a study which shows the early signs of the real world impact of the UK's vaccination programme.

Scientists studying the impact of the jabs in Scotland found the Pfizer and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines were shown to reduce the risk of hospital admission from the virus by up to 85% and 94% respectively.

Lead researcher of the study, Professor Aziz Sheikh, director of the University of Edinburgh’s Usher Institute, said: "These results are very encouraging and have given us great reasons to be optimistic for the future."

Dr Cree says that "doctors and nurses have been topping up their antibody levels every now due to inadvertent exposure." Credit: Jane Barlow/PA

Scientists from the University of Edinburgh, the University of Strathclyde and Public Health Scotland examined coronavirus hospital admissions in Scotland among people who have had their first jab and compared them with those who had not yet received a dose of the vaccine. Four weeks after receiving the initial dose, the Oxford jab appeared to reduce a person's risk of hospital admission by 94%. Those who received the Pfizer jab had a reduction in risk of 85% between 28 and 34 days after the first dose.

Professor Danny Altman discusses the results

Data for the two jabs combined showed that among people over the age of 80 - who are at high risk of severe disease - the reduction in risk of hospital admission was 81% four weeks after the first dose.

Nicola Sturgeon has described a study into the vaccine as "exceptionally encouraging".

Lead researcher, professor Aziz Sheikh, director of the University of Edinburgh's Usher Institute, said: "These results are very encouraging and have given us great reasons to be optimistic for the future.

"We now have national evidence - across an entire country - that vaccination provides protection against Covid-19 hospitalisations. "Rollout of the first vaccine dose now needs to be accelerated globally to help overcome this terrible disease." The study team said the findings are applicable to other countries using the Pfizer and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines. The study is the first to describe a country-wide effect of the Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca jabs in the community on preventing severe illness resulting in hospital admissions. The researchers examined data between between December 8 and 15 February 15. During this period, 1.14 million vaccines were administered in Scotland - 21% of the Scottish population.

More than 17.2 million adults in the UK have had at least one dose of a Covid vaccine. Credit: PA

The Pfizer vaccine has been received by some 650,000 people, while 490,000 have had the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine. Researchers looked at GP records on vaccination, hospital admissions, death registrations and laboratory test results - and compared the outcomes of those who had received their first jab with those who had not. Dr Jim McMenamin, national Covid-19 incident director at PHS, said: "Across the Scottish population the results show a substantial effect on reducing the risk of admission to hospital from a single dose of vaccine. "For anyone offered the vaccine I encourage them to get vaccinated." Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England and co-lead for the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), said the data provided "encouraging early data". Despite the optimistic data, Dr Josie Murray, Public Health Scotland's public health consultant lead for the EAVE II project, warned the results do not have any bearing on the virus's ability to transmit from person to person and did not advise any changes. She said: "The first thing to say about these results is that the current vaccination programme shows from these data very likely to be preventing severe illness related to Covid-19. "I think it's really important to emphasise that these data don't support any comment about transmission or indeed transmission policy and therefore we wouldn't be advising on the basis of these results that we should alter anything that we've got implemented currently to stop transmission of the virus from person to person within Scotland."