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Pfizer, Oxford vaccines reduce severe COVID-19 in elderly, study finds

The research, posted as a pre-print and yet to be peer-reviewed, estimated the effect of both the COVID-19 vaccines on laboratory confirmed symptomatic disease in individuals aged 70 years or older in England.

March 02, 2021 / 01:15 PM IST
(Image: Reuters)

(Image: Reuters)

The Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines for COVID-19 are highly effective in reducing severe coronavirus infection among people aged 70 years and above, according to a study.

The research, posted as a pre-print and yet to be peer-reviewed, estimated the effect of both the COVID-19 vaccines on laboratory confirmed symptomatic disease in individuals aged 70 years or older in England.

The researchers, including those from Public Health England (PHE), compared the rate of hospitalisation and deaths in confirmed COVID-19 patients aged over 80 who were vaccinated more than 14 days before testing positive, with unvaccinated cases.

Data suggests that in the over 80s, a single dose of either vaccine is more than 80 percent effective at preventing hospitalisation, around 3 to 4 weeks after the jab, PHE said in a statement.

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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Evidence for the Pfizer vaccine suggests that it leads to 83 percent reduction in deaths from COVID-19, it said.

The data also shows symptomatic infections in over 70s decreased from around three weeks after one dose of both vaccines.

"Vaccination with either a single dose of Pfizer or Oxford-AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccination was associated with a significant reduction in symptomatic SARS-CoV2 positive cases in older adults with even greater protection against severe disease,” said the authors of the study, adding both the vaccines show similar effects.

They said the protection was maintained for the duration of over six weeks of follow-up, and there is a clear effect of both the vaccines against the UK variant of concern.

Experts say the new analysis adds to growing evidence that the vaccines are working, and are highly effective in protecting people against severe illness, hospitalisation and death.

"This adds to growing evidence showing that the vaccines are working to reduce infections and save lives,” Mary Ramsay, PHE Head of Immunisation, said in the statement.

"While there remains much more data to follow, this is encouraging and we are increasingly confident that vaccines are making a real difference,” Ramsay said.

However, she cautioned that the protection is not complete and it is not known yet how much these vaccines will reduce the risk of someone passing the coronavirus onto others.

"Even if you have been vaccinated, it is really important that you continue to act like you have the virus, practise good hand hygiene and stay at home,” Ramsay added.

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