Qatar study reveals high effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines in preventing severe illness due to UK, South African variants
COVID-19 vaccination in Qatar is highly effective at warding off severe illness due to infection from the UK and South African variants, a Qatar study has found.
The research study, carried out by investigators and collaborators from the country’s health sector and research institutes, has been published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The study looked into a wide range of clinical data in national COVID-19 databases, from February 1 to March 31, 2021, including vaccination data, antibody and PCR test results, COVID-19 hospitalizations, and infection severity data.
Professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar and Lead investigator of the study, Professor Laith Abu-Raddad highlighted the significance of the findings.
“At the start of the year, the number of new daily COVID-19 infections in Qatar began to gradually increase, a trend that continued until mid-April,” said Professor Abu-Raddad. “These rising numbers were largely driven by the introduction of new variants into the community; first the UK variant, followed by the South African variant.”
While the extensive clinical trials of the Pfizer and BioNTech, and Moderna vaccines had shown that these vaccines were 95 percent effective at preventing symptomatic infection against the original strain of COVID-19, there was a lack of clinical evidence on whether these vaccines were effective against the new variants, Professor Abu-Raddad explained.
“The results of our study are very encouraging, showing that for fully vaccinated people – 14 days after receiving the second dose – vaccination is 89.5 percent effective at preventing infection from the UK variant and 75 percent effective at preventing infection from the South African variant,” he added.
Senior Epidemiologist at Weill Cornell Medicine-Qatar and one of the lead investigators in the study, Hiam Chemaitelly underlined that of most significance is that the study found vaccination to be 97.4 percent effective in preventing severe, critical, or fatal disease due to both the UK and South African variants.
“Vaccination provided a robust protection against both hospitalization and death due to COVID-19, regardless of the variant type,” he said.
Chair of the National Health Strategic Group on COVID-19 and Head of Infectious Diseases at Hamad Medical Corporation, and one of the study investigators, Dr Abdullatif Al Khal said the findings were good news that prove the effectiveness of the vaccines.
“We know that the UK and South African variants are more highly transmissible and cause more severe symptoms in infected people than the original strain we experienced last year, so having vaccines that are proven to work against these variants is incredibly important,” he said.
“The COVID-19 pandemic is the biggest public health challenge the world has faced for several decades and has impacted nearly every country across the globe for more than a year. The global rollout of vaccines offers hope of a return towards normal life and this joint research study showing the vaccines to be highly effective at preventing severe infection will reassure people here in Qatar and around the world,” Dr Al Khal added.
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