Matt Hancock shares 'exciting' update on Oxford vaccine data
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The number of fatalities as a result of Covid has plummeted since the start of the vaccine rollout. Over the past week, deaths have dropped by as much as 36 percent as more vulnerable people build up immunity.
On February 28, 144 deaths were recorded. But modelling by the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Modelling group (SPI-M) did not expect England to hit the threshold until the middle of this month.
On February 22 Prime Minister Boris Johnson set out his roadmap for the easing of coronavirus restrictions.
He gave a minimum date for the lifting on certain measures, warning the timetable could be delayed as he would be guided by “data not dates”.
Mark Woolhouse, who sits on the Government’s SPI-M has now suggested the evidence indicates restrictions could lift earlier than anticipated.
“The data are indeed looking better than the models were predicting and – to the best of my knowledge – better than anyone was expecting,” the professor of infectious disease epidemiology told The Telegraph.
“If the phrase ‘data-driven not date-driven’ has any meaning, then it must allow for the schedule for relaxing restrictions to be brought forward if the data are better than expected and not just putting the schedule back if the data are worse than expected.”
SPI-M published its modelling on February 10, but since then further evidence has been gathered on the efficacy of the coronavirus vaccines.
A new study by public Health England earlier this week indicated the Pfizer and AstraZeneca jabs were doing a better job at preventing hospitalisations than expected.
The first real-world data of the jabs rollout indicated a single dose of either vaccine slashed hospitalisation by over 80 percent.
The PHE report on vaccine effectiveness added: “Protection against symptomatic Covid, four weeks after the first dose, ranged between 57 and 61 percent for one dose of Pfizer and between 60 and 73 percent for the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.”
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Professor Sir David Spiegelhalter, a statistician from the University of Cambridge, said the impact of the vaccine on reducing deaths from COVID-19 was “better than anyone expected”.
He said: “The latest death registrations refer to events from a few weeks ago but if we look at what is happening every day as we see on the Government’s coronavirus dashboard, we can see that deaths in the over-65s – one of the vaccinated age groups – are now halving every week.
“We all sort of hoped something like this might happen but, frankly, it is better than anyone expected, I think.”
PHE’s head of immunisation Dr Mary Ramsay also said there was growing confidence the vaccines stop transmission “almost completely”.
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has already indicated she is now considering speeding up the ending of lockdown restrictions north of the border in light of the latest date.
She said: “I have always said if we can go further and faster then we will not hesitate to do so.”
Despite growing pressure on Mr Johnson to speed up his roadmap.
He said on Monday: “Some people say we should go faster, some people say we should be more hesitant.
“I think we are going at the right pace.”
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