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In a group of 5,000 people who had two jabs only, 109 showed Covid symptoms. But in another group of 5,000, who had been given a third shot almost a year after the second, the number was just five.
The startling results ‑ showing the booster provides almost total protection ‑ are a massive shot in the arm for Government efforts to encourage millions of eligible Britons to get the jab.
It comes as Ministers reject calls to activate the Government’s Covid Plan B, which would bring back some restrictive measures, including compulsory masks on public transport and working from home where possible.
Scientists behind the first full trial of the BioNTech/Pfizer booster said the additional shot restored protection to the high levels achieved shortly after the second dose ‑ counteracting any waning of protection.
They explained that a booster shot is 95.6 percent effective against Covid-19, compared with two shots and a placebo.
Health Secretary Sajid Javid welcomed the results, writing on Twitter: “Excellent results from Pfizer showing their booster vaccine is safe and 95.6 percent effective against Covid-19.
“It’s further evidence that boosters are the best way to protect those most at risk this winter. Please get your jabs when you get the call.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted: “Great results from Pfizer showing 95.6 percent efficacy against Covid-19 after your booster jab compared to just two doses.
“Please get yours when you get the call.”
Professor Jeremy Brown, of the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), said: “This study shows the booster jab provides excellent protection against both mild and more serious Covid-19 infections, so should both reduce the infection rates in the community and the pressure on hospital services.”
Ugur Sahin, CEO and co-founder of German firm BioNTech, which made the jab and carried out the research with Pfizer, said: “Based on these findings we believe that…booster vaccinations could play an important role in sustaining pandemic containment and a return to normalcy.”
The average age of participants was 53, with just over half in the 16 to 55 age group. More than a fifth were older than 65.
Half were given two BioNTech/Pfizer jabs and a placebo jab. And the other half were given three of the BioNTech/Pfizer jabs.
It was all done randomly and the effect was “consistent” regardless of age, sex, race, ethnicity or underlying medical conditions.
Andy Hill, a senior visiting research fellow in pharmacology at the University of Liverpool, said the trial was “very important” because it provided a “much stronger” level of evidence.
“It is randomised and measures effects on new infections,” he said.
“This is a big step forward from previous studies of other vaccines which only measured effects on antibody levels.
“This new trial is much more reliable.”
The results are not directly transferable to the UK, however, as the study enrolled people who’d already had two doses of the Pfizer vaccine ‑ and not the Oxford/AstraZeneca or Moderna ones.
Dosing intervals were also different. Participants waited an average of 11 months before their booster, whereas the UK is offering them after six months.
American drug giant Pfizer, which tested the trial volunteers for Covid two and a half months after their third jab, said theirs was the first randomised, controlled trial ‑ considered the gold standard of scientific studies ‑ to assess the effect of Covid-19 booster vaccines. The results will be shared with regulatory agencies “as soon as possible,” the companies said.
The findings come after Health and Social Care Secretary Sajid Javid warned Britons to get their vaccinations and take precautions to avoid Covid curbs this winter.
Following his appeal, NHS England reported a record number of top-up inoculations booked on Wednesday, with 234,241 people making an appointment via the National Booking Service.
Yesterday long queues could be seen outside vaccination centres across the country.
Mr Javid said: “We know that natural immunity provided by the vaccine reduces over time, which means if you are vulnerable you are more likely to catch Covid-19 and become seriously ill if you don’t take up the offer of a booster.
“In the last month, we’ve seen over four million people have had their top-up jab, so join them and book yours now to keep you and your family safe.”
See the latest Covid vaccine stats below and visit InYourArea for all the Covid vaccine latest
Latest figures show there were 52,009 new infections confirmed across the UK yesterday, the most since mid-July. Some 115 deaths within 28 days of a positive test were also reported, while data for England showed there were 6,366 Covid-19 patients on hospital wards, including 750 in intensive care beds.
Matthew Taylor, chief executive of the NHS Confederation said: “The NHS is running extremely hot as it heads into what is expected to be a very challenging winter, but health leaders will continue to do everything they can for their patients.
“We encourage the Secretary of State to keep reviewing the data as there are actions the Government can take right now but is choosing not to, which could reduce the spread of coronavirus.
The weekly Covid-19 surveillance report also warned that cases had increased, with the highest rates seen in people aged 10-19.
Professor Steven Riley, director of analytics at the UK Health Security Agency, said: “The high death figures recorded this week act as a timely reminder we all need to play our part to drive down infections, hospitalisations and deaths ‑ the pandemic is far from over.”
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