It comes as experts announced that vaccinations are over 90 percent effective at preventing deaths from the Delta variant of COVID-19. The data, released by the University of Edinburgh, was gathered using a Scotland-wide Covid surveillance tool. Researchers found the Pfizer vaccine is 90 percent effective and the AstraZeneca vaccine 91 percent effective in preventing deaths in people who have been double vaccinated, but have tested positive for the virus.
It is the first study to show how effective vaccines are at preventing death from the Delta variant, which is now the dominant variant in the UK right now.
Researchers analysed data from 5.4 million people in Scotland between 1 April and 27 September 2021.
During this period, 115,000 people tested positive for COVID-19 through a PCR test conducted in the community, rather than in hospital, and there were 201 deaths recorded due to the virus.
The Moderna vaccine is also available in Scotland and no deaths have been recorded in those who have been double vaccinated with it.
Researchers defined death from COVID-19 as anyone who died within 28 days of a positive PCR test, or with COVID-19 recorded as a cause of death on their death certificate.
Professor Aziz Sheikh, Director of the University of Edinburgh’s Usher Institute and EAVE II study lead, said: “With the Delta variant now the dominant strain in many places worldwide and posing a higher risk of hospitalisation than previous variants seen in the UK, it is reassuring to see that vaccination offers such high protection from death very shortly after the second dose.”
“If you still have not taken up your offer to be vaccinated, I would encourage you to do so based on the clear benefits it offers.”
Professor Chris Robertson, University of Strathclyde and Public Health Scotland, said: “This study shows the value of carrying out analyses of routine healthcare data available in near real-time.
“Our findings are encouraging in showing that the vaccine remains an effective measure in protecting both ourselves and others from death from the most dominant variant of COVID-19. It is very important to validate these early results in other settings and with a longer follow-up study.”
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It is not yet considered a variant of concern, or a variant under investigation – the categories assigned to variants and the level of risk associated with them.
Speaking at a Downing Street press conference on Wednesday, Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: “And while there is no reason to believe at this point AY4.2 poses a greater threat, the next variant or the one after that, might do.
“So we need to be ready for what lies around the corner.”
Mr Javid warned cases could yet rise to 100,000 a day, saying: “We’ll do what it takes to make sure that this pressure doesn’t become unsustainable and that we don’t allow the NHS to become overwhelmed.”
He added. “Thanks to the vaccination programme, yes the link between cases and hospitalisations and deaths has significantly weakened, but it’s not broken.”
He urged the vulnerable and people over-50 to get their Covid booster jab to protect themselves from the virus.