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Covid: Two doses of Pfizer or Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine give same protection as prior infection

Two doses of either Pfizer or AstraZeneca’s Covid vaccine offer the same protection against the illness as getting infected and recovering, research suggests.

A study of 13,000 health workers in England revealed no-one who received both jabs suffered symptomatic illness in the fortnight after their booster dose. 

That’s compared to the two per cent of Covid survivors who fell ill with the virus after recovering from an earlier infection. The sample size was too small to say for definite the vaccines gave more protection than previous illness.

Oxford University researchers who carried out the research said the findings applied to the more infectious, and possibly deadlier, Kent variant.

They also found a single dose of either vaccine reduced the number of people with symptomatic illness by 67 per cent. This finding highlights that healthcare workers ‘should take up second vaccines as soon as these are available’, they said.

Dr Katie Jeffery, director of infection prevention and control at Oxford University Hospitals, who was involved in the study, said: ‘We are grateful to the thousands of staff who work at OUH’s hospitals who have taken part in the testing programme. 

‘In this case it is significant that two doses of the vaccines offer similar levels of protection to natural immunity, and that we saw no symptomatic infections among those staff who had had two vaccine doses.

Two doses of either the Pfizer or Oxford University vaccines offer the same protection against Covid than getting infected and recovering, research suggests

A study of 13,000 health workers in England found nobody who received both injections suffered symptomatic illness in the fortnight after their second jab.  That's compared to the 2 per cent of Covid survivors who fell ill with the virus after recovering from an earlier infection

A study of 13,000 health workers in England found nobody who received both injections suffered symptomatic illness in the fortnight after their second jab.  That’s compared to the 2 per cent of Covid survivors who fell ill with the virus after recovering from an earlier infection

‘Data from studies such as this are important as they provide information which may feed into national policy. 

‘It also highlights that healthcare workers and other groups at increased risk of infection should take up second vaccines as soon as these are available.’

Hospitals can remove health workers from high-risk wards if they refuse the Covid vaccine 

Hospitals in England will be able to redeploy staff who refuse to get their Covid vaccine under new plans drawn up by NHS bosses.

An internal document said local leaders can move workers to wards where they have a smaller chance of catching or passing Covid to patients.

This may include taking them off cancer or dementia wards, for example, where patients are extremely vulnerable to the virus.  

If staff are already on low-risk wards then they should be put through the latest infection control training and provided personal protective equipment (PPE) and a tight-fitting mask, the document said.  

The new guidance, seen by the Health Service Journal (HSJ), said: ‘In addition to the above, if the risk to the member of staff, their colleagues or patients is still very significant, they could be moved into a less exposure-prone setting as an option.

‘These sensitive conversations may require input from local trade union representatives and HR.’

Uptake of the Covid jabs has been better than expected among health workers in the UK — more than nine in 10 frontline NHS staff have had at least one dose so far.

Frontline health staff were included in the top four priority groups for the vaccine because, even though they are not more likely to catch or die from Covid, there is always a risk they will pass the disease onto ill and frail patients. 

The study looked at NHS staff at Oxford University Hospitals who had been regularly tested from last March until the end of February 2020.

Some 8,285 have received the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine (1,407 of them two doses), and 2,738 the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab (49 of them receiving both doses).

A total of 1,273 staff who had previously been infected and had Covid antibodies but were not vaccinated were also recruited.

The study found that previously-infected patients enjoyed 98 per cent protection against symptomatic Covid, while two doses of the vaccines gave 100 per cent protection. 

Prior infection stopped 85 per cent of people from testing positive on a PCR, while the figure for both vaccine doses was 90 per cent. A single injection prevented 64 per cent from testing positive.

PCR tests are ultra-sensitive and can pick up on tiny fragments of virus even if a person is not infectious. 

The researchers said the amount of virus detected by the tests suggested vaccinated or previously-infected people were ‘unlikely’ to transmit it to others.

The study, which has not been peer-reviewed, is published on the MedRxiv pre-print server.

It was carried out jointly by researchers and clinicians from OUH and a number of University of Oxford departments, including the Nuffield Department of Medicine and the Big Data Institute, with support from the NIHR Oxford Biomedical Research Centre.  

It comes as hospitals in England were given the green light to redeploy staff who refuse to get their Covid vaccine under new plans drawn up by NHS bosses.

An internal document said local leaders can move workers to wards where they have a smaller chance of catching or passing Covid to patients.

This may include taking them off cancer or dementia wards, for example, where patients are extremely vulnerable to the virus.  

If staff are already on low-risk wards then they should be put through the latest infection control training and provided personal protective equipment (PPE) and a tight-fitting mask, the document said.  

The new guidance, seen by the Health Service Journal (HSJ), said: ‘In addition to the above, if the risk to the member of staff, their colleagues or patients is still very significant, they could be moved into a less exposure-prone setting as an option.

‘These sensitive conversations may require input from local trade union representatives and HR.’

Uptake of the Covid jabs has been better than expected among health workers in the UK — more than nine in 10 frontline NHS staff have had at least one dose so far.

Frontline health staff were included in the top four priority groups for the vaccine because, even though they are not more likely to catch or die from Covid, there is always a risk they will pass the disease onto ill and frail patients. 


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