Covid: Study on vaccine effectiveness released in UK
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Thankfully, vaccine hesitancy is not as pervasive in Britain as it is in other countries – the vast majority of the population have now received at least the first dose of a coronavirus vaccine. However, to stop lethal new variants entering UK shores, vaccine take up matters everywhere. A new study should further allay fears about getting vaccinated.
The potential side effects that may follow vaccination is one of the main drivers of vaccine hesitancy.
However, a new large-scale study published in the New England Journal of Medicine shows the risks posed by the vaccines are negligible compared to catching Covid without the protection offered by the vaccines.
The research, based on two million Israelis, found catching Covid to be a far worse risk factor for the development of myocarditis and other serious complications that have been feared as post-vaccine side effects.
Myocarditis – an inflammation of the heart muscle – has been linked to the Pfizer vaccine.
“Anyone who has been hesitant to get vaccinated so far due to concerns about rare side effects such as myocarditis, should be aware that the risk is higher among unvaccinated people infected with the coronavirus,” said Prof Ran Balicer, head of research at the Clalit Health Services, which produced the study.
Myocarditis was found to be elevated among vaccinated people, with 2.7 more cases per 100,000 people than would normally occur (known as surplus cases).
But among people who didn’t vaccinate and subsequently caught COVID-19 and recovered, surplus cases stood at 11 per 100,000.
The study focused on people who received the Pfizer vaccine, and tracked patients’ health for six weeks.
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The study researchers concluded that “the BNT162b2 vaccine was not associated with an elevated risk of most of the adverse events examined”.
They did find two exceptions, however.
The main exceptions were lymphadenopathy, which enlarges lymph nodes, and shingles.
Shingles is an infection that causes a painful rash.
There were 78 surplus cases of lymphadenopathy per 100,000 vaccinated people but only three among the unvaccinated and infected.
There were nine fewer cases of shingles per 100,000 among the unvaccinated population than the norm, but 16 surplus cases among vaccinated patients.
What’s more, acute kidney injury and arrhythmia turned out to be less common among the vaccinated than would be expected.
Yet among the unvaccinated and infected patients, there were surplus cases — as many as 125 and 166 per 100,000 in the case of acute kidney injury and arrhythmia respectively.
Commenting on the findings, Balicer, a senior adviser to the Israeli government on coronavirus, said: “So far one of the main motives for hesitation to get vaccinated has been a lack of information about possible vaccine side effects.
“This in-depth study provides reliable information on the safety of the vaccines, and we hope it will help those who have not yet decided on the vaccine.”
You can get a COVID-19 vaccine if you’re aged 18 or over.
You can book appointments at a larger vaccination centre or pharmacy now, or wait to be invited to go to a local NHS service.
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