COVID vaccines 'already cutting hospital admissions and deaths' as minister calls early data 'encouraging'

People queue to receive their Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre inside the Brighton Centre, Sussex, as the UK continues in a third lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. Picture date: Tuesday February 9, 2021.
More than 15 million people have been vaccinated against coronavirus in the UK. (PA)

Coronavirus vaccines are already cutting hospital admissions and deaths, it has been reported.

According to The Times, preliminary figures indicate the UK’s mass vaccination programme has had a positive impact in the fight against COVID-19.

Preliminary data comparing elderly people who have received the vaccine with those who have not is starting to show it is cutting hospital admissions and deaths, the newspaper said.

The Times said ministers had already been given data that shows vaccines are cutting illness by about two thirds, while a separate study testing thousands of healthcare workers for signs of asymptomatic infection has shown lower rates among those who have been vaccinated.

The pound rose against the dollar on Tuesday in the aftermath of the report that the vaccine is curbing the spread of coronavirus.

A Public Health England spokesman said: “It is too early to draw firm conclusions from our surveillance programme.

“We have been analysing the data since the start of the vaccination programme rollout and will publish our findings in due course.”

On Tuesday, vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said preliminary evidence on the effect of vaccinations on COVID-19 transmission is “really encouraging”.

He said early research from Oxford University has been promising but cited two ongoing Public Health England (PHE) studies on the impact of vaccines on COVID-19 – the Vivaldi study on care home residents and staff, and the Siren research on healthcare workers – as being key.

Watch: Vaccines minister on 'stretching' April jabs target

“We’ve got to make sure that you bring down the infection rates, hence why we’re waiting to see the data on transmission,” he told Times Radio.

“The Oxford team had some early data which is really encouraging on transmission, which has to be peer-reviewed.

“We’re beginning to see more and more data but at the moment it’s far too early to begin to speculate on the quality of the data.

“Ultimately, what we want to do is make sure the vaccines are delivering that bridge – you break the link between infection rates and hospitalisation and serious illness and deaths.”

According to the latest government figures published on Monday, the UK’s COVID-19 infection rate is at its lowest level since October.

However, Zahawi stressed it is currently uncertain how much of the reduction in infections being seen is down to lockdown restrictions or the vaccine rollout, and suggested the full research may not be available for a number of weeks.

“We have a couple of very large-scale studies related to giving us better data on the vaccines,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme in a separate interview on Tuesday.

“We should be able to see really good data in the next few weeks from those studies.”

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 15: UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson talks during a Covid-19 media briefing in Downing Street on February 15, 2021 in London, England. (Photo by Stefan Rousseau - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Prime minister Boris Johnson talks during a COVID-19 media briefing in Downing Street on Monday. (Getty)

The government reached its target of vaccinating 15 million people from the top four priority groups by the middle of February, and is now working to vaccinate another 17 million, including all over-50s and those in at-risk groups, by the end of April.

On Monday, prime minister Boris Johnson said there were “grounds for confidence” that vaccines were helping to curb the spread of coronavirus, not just in protecting those who received the jab.

“We have some interesting straws in the wind, we have some grounds for confidence but the vaccinations have only been running for a matter of weeks,” he said during a Downing Street briefing.

The prime minister will analyse data this week on coronavirus case numbers, hospital admissions, deaths and the impact of the vaccine rollout as he prepares his plan to reduce restrictions.

He is set to lay out his road map next Monday for easing the lockdown but has admitted the government has not yet decided its plan of action.

Johnson said he hopes England’s current lockdown will be its last, but said he could not give a “cast iron guarantee” there won’t be another one.

Watch: What you can and can't do during England's lockdown