Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine 85% effective after first dose, study finds

19 February 2021, 08:07 | Updated: 19 February 2021, 11:36

The Israeli study showed promising data around the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine
The Israeli study showed promising data around the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Picture: PA

By Patrick Grafton-Green

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is up to 85% effective after the first dose, according to a new Israeli study.

The study, carried out by the country’s largest hospital, looked at the effectiveness of the first dose of the vaccine in more than 7,000 healthcare workers.

The Sheba Medical Centre research found there was an 85% reduction in the number of people developing symptomatic Covid-19 between 15 and 28 days after the jab.

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Including asymptomatic cases, there was a 75% drop in infections.

The findings have been published in The Lancet medical journal.

The study said the data showed "substantial early reductions in SARS-CoV-2 infection and symptomatic Covid-19 rates following first vaccine dose administration."

In a boost to the UK’s vaccine policy, it added that this supports "delaying the second dose in countries facing vaccine shortages and scarce resources, so as to allow higher population coverage with a single dose."

However it said more research is needed on the long-term effectiveness of a single dose "to inform a second dose delay policy".

Pfizer said in a statement it was doing its own analysis of "the vaccine’s real-world effectiveness in several locations worldwide, including Israel" and would not comment directly on the findings.

Commenting on the research, Deborah Dunn-Walters, professor of immunology at the University of Surrey, said: "It should be noted that this study was carried out on people of working age, so it will be informative to see a similar study in older people after one dose.

"Although further research is needed, overall these new findings should provide reassurance around the UK's decision to offer the two doses of the vaccine 12 weeks apart."

Dr Peter English, consultant in communicable disease control, added: "This is good news. It supports earlier data suggesting that, from six weeks or so after vaccination, vaccine efficacy is likely to be at least 85% - possibly considerably better - at least in vaccine recipients of working age.

However he added the data "are quite limited".

It comes as The Telegraph reported that one dose of the Pfizer and Oxford/Astrazeneca vaccines can cut infections and transmissions by two-thirds.

Whitehall sources told the paper the “real world data” would be crucial in informing the relaxation of lockdown restrictions, calling the findings “very encouraging”.

Meanwhile, the Daily Mail reported the Government is set to recommend the next phase of the UK's vaccine rollout continues on the basis of age, rather than prioritising key workers.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation has not yet set out plans on who should be vaccinated beyond the top nine priority groups, but has faced calls for police officers and teachers to be prioritised.