More US studies show COVID vaccines protect from serious illness

Research suggests vaccines offer strong protection against hospitalisation and death, even for the Delta variant.

Two studies showed that vaccine protection appears to be waning among older people, especially among those 75 and older [Rachel Wisniewski/Reuters]

The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has presented data showing unvaccinated people are four-and-a-half times more likely to contract COVID-19 and 11 times more likely to die from it than those fully vaccinated.

In a White House COVID-19 briefing on Friday, CDC Director Dr Rochelle Walensky said the data shows “vaccination works and will protect us from the severe complications of COVID-19”.

The studies involved more than 600,000 COVID-19 cases, hospitalisations and deaths in 13 states, and large cities from April through mid-July.

“Looking at cases over the past two months when the Delta variant was the predominant variant circulating in this country, those who were unvaccinated were about four-and-a-half times more likely to get COVID-19, over 10 times more likely to be hospitalised, and 11 times more likely to die from the disease,” Walensky said.

US President Joe Biden speaks with students during a visit to Brookland Middle School to promote coronavirus protection measures in Washington, DC [Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

While protection remained strong against Delta, the study also confirmed an increase in milder COVID-19 infections among fully vaccinated people, which the authors said reflected “potential waning of vaccine-induced population immunity”.

Two other US studies also found that COVID-19 vaccines offer strong protection against hospitalisation and death, even in the face of the highly transmissible Delta variant, but vaccine protection appears to be waning among older people, especially among those 75 and older.

US data on hospitalisation from nine states during the period when the Delta variant was dominant also suggests that the Moderna vaccine was more effective at preventing hospitalisations among individuals of all ages than vaccines from Pfizer or Johnson & Johnson.

In that study of more than 32,000 visits to urgent care centres, emergency rooms and hospitals, Moderna’s vaccine was 95 percent effective at preventing hospitalisation compared with 80 percent for Pfizer and 60 percent for J&J.

Another study looked specifically at the performance of mRNA vaccines – such as the shots from Pfizer and Moderna – in patients at five Veterans Affairs medical centres, a racially diverse group made up largely of older male patients with higher rates of underlying disease.

Of the more than 1,000 COVID-19 hospitalisations in that study, researchers found that combined both vaccines were 86.8 percent effective against hospitalisation – even against the Delta variant. But vaccine effectiveness fell to 79.8 percent among veterans 65 and older.

Amid the rapid spread of the Delta variant, millions of Americans remain unvaccinated [Nam Y Huh/AP Photo]

In the third study, which looked at medical encounters in nine states, overall vaccine effectiveness remained high at 86 percent against hospitalisation and 82 percent against visits to the emergency room or an urgent care centre. However, vaccine effectiveness against hospitalisation was “significantly lower” among adults aged 75 and older, falling to 76 percent – the first time a drop had been observed in this data set.

The data comes a day after US President Joe Biden unveiled a six-step plan to combat the pandemic, which includes measures such as requiring some employers to impose vaccination mandates or mandatory testing, making available more over-the-counter at-home coronavirus tests and expanding the government’s free testing programme.

“I don’t know of any scientist out there in this field who doesn’t think it makes considerable sense to do the six things I’ve suggested,” Biden said on Friday during a visit to a local school in Washington, DC.

“We’ve got to come together. And I think the vast majority — look at the polling data — the vast majority of the American people know we have to do these things. They’re hard, but necessary. We’re going to get them done,” he said.

According to CDC figures, about 177.4 million Americans, or 53.4 percent of the total US population, have been fully vaccinated so far.

On average, more than 136,000 new cases are detected every day, according to the CDC, in a stark increase from earlier summer when infections had dropped significantly nationwide. More than 1,000 people are dying every day from the disease.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies