Covid safety for the totally vaccinated is waning, UK examine finds

Covid vaccinator, Petra Moinar, prepares syringes with the AstraZeneca vaccine before it is administered at Battersea Arts Centre on March 8, 2021 in London, England.

Chris J Ratcliffe | Getty Images News | Getty Images

LONDON — Protection against the coronavirus is waning among those who have received both shots of the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines, a new U.K. study has found. 

An analysis from the U.K.’s ZOE Covid app study of over 400,000 people who had received both shots of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, showed that it was 88% effective in protecting against the coronavirus a month after receiving both shots. However, its effectiveness fell to 74% five or six months after receiving both doses of the Pfizer vaccine. 

In the same study, an analysis of over 700,000 people who had received both doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine showed its effectiveness fell from 77% after a month to 67% at the four to five month mark. 

The data was collected after May 26, when the delta variant became the dominant strain, said Tim Spector, who is running the ongoing ZOE Covid app study. 

Spector, a professor of genetic epidemiology at King’s College London, presented this latest data during a webinar on Tuesday and said that the findings showed a “reduced benefit” of protection from both of these vaccines as the months progress. 

Nearly 42 million people in the U.K., 77% of the population aged over 16, have received two doses of a Covid vaccine, according to government data last updated on Tuesday. The daily data showed 30,838 Covid-19 infections had been recorded on Tuesday, while 174 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for the virus. 

Alexander Hammers, a professor of imaging and neuroscience at King’s College London, said on the webinar it was already known from other coronaviruses that immunity against the disease didn’t tend to be lifelong. 

“So we knew there was going to be some levelling off and the way I look at this is the levelling off is actually a little slower than I would have expected,” he said. 

And even though the data did show a “waning” in the effectiveness of the vaccines over time, Hammers said that people were “still probably at least 50% protected.” 

“Remember when the vaccines were first developed it was hoped that they were to have 60%-70% efficacy and everybody was pleasantly surprised that they came in well over 80%, sometimes well over 90,” he added. 

Nevertheless, Spector said he was still “a bit worried” by coronavirus data coming out of Israel, which had one of the fastest vaccination programs in the world and was ahead of the U.K. 

He pointed out that Israel was starting to see increased hospitalizations and deaths from the coronavirus, despite a large proportion of its population being vaccinated.  

Data published by Israel in July, showed that the Pfizer vaccine was just 16% effective against symptomatic infection for those individuals who received two doses in January. 

Comparing results is tricky, however, given differences in the nature of the vaccination programs in different countries, as well as differences in study dates, age groups and Covid testing regimes. 

Two U.S. studies published Tuesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed waning immunity against Covid among those who were fully vaccinated, one of which was focused on front-line workers. 

The ZOE Covid study webinar panelists also discussed whether the waning effectiveness of the vaccines would bolster the need for booster Covid vaccine shots in the future. Spector pointed to the fact that Israel had already started planning to give out booster shots.

Anna Goodman, a consultant in infectious diseases and general medicine at London’s Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS foundation trust, who is working on Covid vaccine booster trials said she imagined that “in time boosters will be needed but I’d like that time to be once everybody in the world is vaccinated.” 

—CNBC’s Holly Ellyatt contributed to this article.

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