Recent studies out of the UK are showing that the new COVID-19 vaccines are showing real-world effectiveness that is in-line with the numbers reported from their clinical trials, welcome news in a coronavirus-weary world. But with COVID-19’s death toll in the US having surpassed a half million souls, we’re reminded that there’s still a lot of work to do before we’re free of the shackles of the pandemic.
“Today, we mark a truly grim, heartbreaking milestone: 500,071 dead,” President Joseph Biden said in a February 22 posting on the White House website, in response to the coronavirus death toll. “That’s more Americans who have died in one year in this pandemic than in World War One, World War Two, and the Vietnam War combined.”
“That’s more lives lost to this virus than any other nation on Earth,” Biden added, remarking on the fact that this number represents roughly 20 percent of the 2.4 million global fatalities from a country with only 4 percent of the planet’s population.
This somber reminder of the deadliness of this disease comes amidst news that the Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccines are showing real-world effectiveness against coronavirus. This progress is already preventing new hospitalizations and deaths from COVID-19; according to three separate studies conducted in the UK.
One study focused on 19,000 health workers in England who received the Pfizer vaccine. Health care workers are tested for the virus on a regular basis which allowed researchers a unique opportunity to track both symptomatic, and asymptomatic cases. The findings were that a single dose reduced the risk of infection by 72 percent, and the second dose improved those odds to 85 percent.
A separate study found that Pfizer’s vaccine was also effective in elderly individuals—a group not well represented in clinical trials—with single-dose effectiveness at 57 percent for recipients over 80 years of age, and rising to 88 percent after the second dose. The study also noted that even the single dose recipients that contracted COVID-19 after inoculation saw a substantially reduced chance of being hospitalized or dying, implying that the vaccine provided at least some protection to those in the 43 percent that saw reduced effectiveness.
A third study looking at COVID-19-related hospitalizations in Scotland involving both the Pfizer-BioNTech and AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccines found that the immunity acquired four weeks after the first dose of each vaccine reduced the likelihood of being hospitalized by 85 and 94 percent, respectively. In fact, the researchers found that the number of vaccinated individuals seeking hospitalization for COVID-19 was so small they were only able to provide a rough estimate of the effectiveness of each vaccine.
In a pandemic-weary world facing the rise of new SARS-CoV-2 variants of concern and a mounting death toll, evidence of an effective inoculant is welcome news.
In his February 22 remarks, President Biden stated that the key to defeating the disease is through both unity and personal sacrifice, to “stay socially distanced, to mask up, get vaccinated when it’s your turn. We must end the politics and misinformation that has divided families, communities, and the country, and has cost too many lives already.”
“It’s not Democrats and Republicans who are dying from the virus. It’s our fellow Americans. It’s our neighbors and our friends — our mothers, our fathers, our sons, our daughters, husbands, wives,” President Biden said in closing.
“This nation will smile again. This nation will know sunny days again. This nation will know joy again. And as we do, we will remember each person we’ve lost, the lives they lived, the loved ones they left behind. We will get through this, I promise you. But my heart aches for you — those of you who are going through it right now.
“May God bless you all, particularly those who have lost someone. God bless you.”
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