An initial dose of the vaccine made by Pfizer and BioNTech cuts the risk of coronavirus infection, Public Health England announced on Monday, as U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed plans to relax lockdown rules.
According to the data released as Johnson started speaking in Parliament, on healthcare workers under 65 years old, one dose of the vaccine from U.S. pharmaceutical Pfizer PFE, -0.54% and its partner BioNTech BNTX, +0.23% reduces the risk of catching infection by more than 70%, rising to 85% after the second dose.
For those over 80 years old, one dose is 57% effective against symptomatic COVID-19 disease after three or four weeks of inoculation, rising to more than 85% after the second dose.
Early data suggest vaccinated people who go on to become infected are far less likely to die or be hospitalized, Public Health England added.
The U.K. was the first country to start administering the Pfizer–BioNTech vaccine. So far the inoculation campaign has focused on the elderly and front-line healthcare workers.
The U.K. also is unique in choosing to delay the administration of second Pfizer–BioNTech doses to 12 weeks. Pfizer’s own trials suggest a 21-day interval between dosing.
The health agency said there is “good” evidence giving the second dose of the vaccine from drug company AstraZeneca AZN, -0.46% and the University of Oxford later will lead to much higher levels of protection. Johnson said it was too early in the campaign to give firm data on that vaccine.
Public Health Scotland separately said its own research finds the Pfizer–BioNTech vaccine reduces the risk of hospitalization by up to 85%, and the AstraZeneca–Oxford vaccine reduces hospitalization risk by up to 94%.
The significance of these studies is that they were conducted in real-world settings, as opposed to the controlled studies controlled by the drugmakers.