Delta variant 'doubles hospital risk' but two jabs offer strong protection - study

14 June 2021, 15:15 | Updated: 14 June 2021, 15:17

The Delta variant first found in India doubles the risk of hospitalisation, a new study has found.
The Delta variant first found in India doubles the risk of hospitalisation, a new study has found. Picture: PA

By Joe Cook

The Delta variant of Covid-19 first found in India doubles the risk of hospital admission compared to the Kent variant, but two doses of the vaccine still provide strong protection, a new study suggests.

Preliminary results analysing data from 5.4 million people in Scotland found the Delta variant is associated with an increased rate of hospitalisation.

While vaccines still significantly reduce the risk of being admitted to hospital, strong protection against the Delta variant was not seen until at least 28 days after the first vaccine dose, researchers found.

A second dose of the vaccine still appears to be essential in protecting against severe Covid-19 with the new variant, however the new research suggests the vaccines may be slightly less effective compared to the Kent (Alpha) variant.

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The two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech jab was found to provide 79 percent protection against infection from the Delta variant, compared with 92 percent against the Alpha variant.

Meanwhile two doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine offered 60 percent protection against infection with the Delta variant compared with 73 percent for the Alpha variant.

But experts say this lower effectiveness may reflect that it takes longer to develop immunity with the Oxford jab. The researchers also warned that because of the observational nature of the study, data about vaccine effectiveness should be interpreted with caution.

The study's authors said their findings have been passed on to scientists advising the government about the relaxation of measures on 21 June.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce a four-week delay to England's "Freedom Day" in an address to the nation at 6pm on Monday.

Tory MPs and business leaders have led a furious backlash against the proposals, but epidemiologists and vaccine experts say with the Delta variant is now dominant in the UK the delay is necessary to allow more people to be fully vaccinated.

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Tory MP Philip Davies has blasted plans for a lockdown extension, saying he was "frustrated beyond belief" at the news.
Tory MP Philip Davies has blasted plans for a lockdown extension, saying he was "frustrated beyond belief" at the news. Picture: PA

Edinburgh Professor Aziz Sheikh, who lead the latest study into the Indian variant of concern, said: "If there is a delay, I think that will give us the opportunity to widen [vaccine] coverage, which is incredibly important for those who at the moment have only got one dose."

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He continued: "Whilst possibly not as effective as against other variants, two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines still offer substantial protection against the risk of infection and hospitalisation.

"It is therefore really important that, when offered second doses, people take these up, both to protect themselves, and to reduce household and community transmission."