The UK’s decision to keep a long interval between first and second doses of the coronavirus vaccine was supported by a new study as the number of infections continues to decline.
A study conducted by Oxford University and published in The Lancet found that waiting longer between doses of the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine improved levels of protection.
The analysis supports the government’s decision to leave a gap of up to 12 weeks between doses and suggests that this resulted in greater overall effectiveness.
Research showed that a single dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine provided 76% protection against Covid-19 from 22 days after vaccination and that it has not decreased by the three month mark.
It was also found that 81% protection existed if there were three months left between the two doses, compared to 55% for a period of up to six weeks.
The Oxford team continues to urge people to take two doses of the vaccine as they are not sure how long protection will last with just a single dose.
Professor Adam Finn of Bristol University and a member of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunization (JCVI) said “everything is moving in the right direction” when it comes to how shocks work.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today program: “We are now at a point with the study that we are doing in Bristol where we can safely say that there is definitely an effect.”
“It’s hard to give an exact number at this point because… the number of cases that are coming in is still increasing, the number of people being vaccinated is still increasing, but it’s getting clearer and clearer for the Pfizer vaccine. We’ve been using it a month longer since the beginning of December and it will be a little longer before we know exactly how well the AstraZeneca vaccine is also at preventing hospital stays, but they definitely do the job. ”
Meanwhile, government statistics have found infections are falling across the UK.
This week, the R-number – which measures the number of people to whom an infected person passes Covid-19 on – is just 0.6-0.9 in the UK, compared with 0.7-0.9 the previous week has decreased.
The lower end of the scale is the lowest number that scientists have recorded in the UK. R is now below 1.0 in all regions of England.
In England, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), around one in 115 people in private households had Covid-19 between February 6 and 12. From January 31 to February 6, the number had fallen by around one in 80 people.
At the same time, an estimated one in 125 people in Wales had Covid-19 between February 6 and February 12, compared to one in 85 previously.
In Northern Ireland it is about one in 105 people, one in 75, while in Scotland it is about one in 180 people, one in 150.
Professor Neil Ferguson of Imperial College London said the data on the vaccine’s effectiveness and how quickly infections, deaths and hospital cases were falling across the country are promising.
He said he thinks the current lockdown should be gradually lifted, adding, “I am encouraged by the cautious approach, an incremental approach that I think will be adopted, which is to relax and see one thing what the effects are to relax again.
“And it may well be that at the end of May we will be in a completely different country than we are today.”