As Cayman is looking at various ways to increase the number of people vaccinated against COVID-19, new data and reports from Bermuda and the UK have confirmed the real-life effectiveness of vaccines in protecting against severe illness and death.
Data analysing the vaccination status of COVID-19 patients in hospitals in Bermuda highlighted the ability of vaccines to prevent hospitalisations.
During the recent coronavirus outbreak in Bermuda, between 14 March and 1 May, 92 people were admitted to hospital. The vast majority, 81 patients or 88%, had not been vaccinated at all, while the remainder was not fully vaccinated.
Ten people had only received one shot and one patient was admitted to hospital within two weeks of the second vaccine jab so that full immunity had not yet been achieved, the Bermuda Hospital Board reported.
In these cases, it is likely that the infection occurred very soon before or after the first vaccine shot, when immunity is low, said Dr. Wesley Miller, BHB’s chief of staff, in a press release.
At the same time, the low admission figures show that there is a protective effect from the vaccine even before full immunity is reached, he said.
“If vaccination didn’t work or caused more illness, the numbers would be very, very different. In fact, if we hadn’t had so many people vaccinated during this surge, hospitalisation numbers and deaths could have been higher.”
During the seven-week period, almost 2,000 people were infected and 19 people, 20% of those who were hospitalised, died from COVID. Currently, 14 people remain in hospital with two in critical care.
Miller said Bermuda is seeing the same results as the rest of world. “[V]accination is safe and protects you from serious illness and hospitalization,” he said.
About 60,000 vaccine doses have been administered in Bermuda and no one has been admitted to hospital due to vaccine-related side effects, the BHB said.
Approximately 39% of Bermuda’s population is fully vaccinated and another 12% has received one dose of the vaccine.
A report by Public Health England published on Monday found that individuals who receive a single dose of the AstraZeneca vaccine have approximately 80% lower risk of death with COVID-19 compared with unvaccinated individuals.
The data showed that protection from the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against death rises from approximately 80% after one dose to 97% after two doses, highlighting the importance of people completing the vaccination course.
A separate analysis highlighted that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was highly effective in reducing the risk of hospitalisation, especially in older people. For the over 80s, it is estimated that two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine cuts that risk by 93%.
Dr. Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at PHE, said that vaccines are saving lives every day. “This analysis gives us even more reassurance that the vaccine is highly effective in protecting adults against death and hospitalisation from COVID-19.”
She added: “Getting your vaccine will significantly reduce your risk of dying or becoming seriously ill from COVID-19. It will also significantly reduce your chances of getting infected and infecting others. It is vital to get both doses of your vaccine when you are offered it.”