UPDATE 1-'Real-world' UK data shows 70% decline in COVID infections after first Pfizer shot

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(Updates with link to study preprint in final paragraph)

By Reuters Staff

LONDON (Reuters) - England's coronavirus vaccine campaign is significantly reducing cases of COVID-19, with a drop of around 70% in infections among healthcare workers who have had a first dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech shot, British health officials said on Monday.

Data analysed by Public Health England (PHE) showed the Pfizer provided high levels of protection against infection and symptomatic disease from a single dose, and that hospitalisation and death from COVID-19 will be reduced by more 75% in elderly people who have had a first dose.

"Overall, we're seeing a really strong effect to reducing any infection, asymptomatic and symptomatic," PHE's strategic response director Susan Hopkins told a media briefing.

PHE's head of immunisation Mary Ramsay described the data as "strong evidence that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is stopping people from getting infected, while also protecting cases against hospitalisation and death".

"We should be very encouraged by these initial findings," she said.

PHE's findings came from two separate analyses - one is an ongoing study in healthcare workers, and the second is an assessment of testing data in people aged 80 and over.

Evidence from the elderly group showed that one dose of the Pfizer shot is 57% effective against symptomatic COVID-19 disease, PHE said, and early data suggest the second dose improves protection to more than 85%.

"Hospitalisation and deaths rates are falling in all age groups, but the oldest age groups are seeing the fastest decline since the peak in mid-January," a PHE statement said.

The vaccine also provides protection against the so-called British variant of the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, it added.

The PHE data come as preliminary study findings from Scotland on Monday also showed the vaccination drive there is working, markedly reducing the risk of hospitalisation for COVID-19.

Scottish researchers said those findings suggested that both the Pfizer and the Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective in preventing severe infections.

The study was posted ahead of peer review on the Preprints with The Lancet website (https://bit.ly/37Ct9Lm) on February 22, 2021.

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