COVID vaccines may be stopping the spread of the virus “almost completely” and are working “better than any of us could have imagined”, experts claim.
Dr Mary Ramsay, Public Health England’s head of immunisation, said research suggests the jabs will have a major impact on halting transmission.
She told the BBC Today programme: “There’s really very good signs that this [vaccination] is going to at least reduce infection rates across the population, and hopefully… prevent people passing it on almost completely if they’ve been vaccinated fully.”
But Dr Ramsay stressed that it is not yet known how long this immunity might last, and “whether that will be enough to stop the infection spreading more widely in the population over time”.
It comes as a huge boost as the government seeks to keep infections low to thwart the emergence of new variants.
While studies show that the current jabs prevent hospitalisations and deaths, there are fears that the virus could mutate more easily in high circulation – and potentially render vaccines less effective.
But results from a new study conducted by Cambridge University released last week found that the Pfizer jab appears to slow the spread of the virus as well as protecting against serious symptoms.
Addenbrooke’s Hospital, in Cambridge, tested staff regularly for the virus from the moment they started rolling out the jab in early December.
A month later, swabbing showed 17 in 1,000 unvaccinated staff were testing positive in mid-January, compared to just four in 1,000 staff who had received their first dose.
It supports similar findings from Public Health England’s SIREN study on healthcare workers aged under 65.
The data, published last month, showed that one dose reduces the risk of catching infection by more than 70 per cent, rising to 85 per cent after the second dose
Professor Devi Sridhar, of the University of Edinburgh, today said that vaccines were working “better than any of us could have imagined”.
She said: “This is world-changing in terms of having these vaccines as a way out of this pandemic.”
It comes as Matt Hancock today claimed that freedom is on horizon” and said the UK was on track for all adults to be jabbed by July as vaccines will be ramped up this month.
Hospital admissions were falling faster than new cases, he confirmed today.
The halving time of hospital admissions is now at 18 days – but for over 80s it’s 12 days as so many have been jabbed, he said.
He said: “This is real world evidence that the vaccine is protecting the NHS and saving lives.”