*Study published in 'The New England Journal of Medicine'
*Vaccination 89.5% effective against UK variant and 75% against South African variant *Vaccination 97.4% effective in preventing severe, critical or fatal disease due to UK, South African variants
*Vaccination provided robust protection against hospitalisation and death due to Covid-19, regardless of the variant type
Covid-19 vaccination in Qatar is highly effective at preventing severe illness due to infection from Covid-19 variants from the UK and South Africa, a study carried out by investigators and collaborators from Qatar’s healthcare system and research institutes has found.
The research study, published in 'The New England Journal of Medicine', the most prestigious medical journal in the world, analysed a wide range of clinical data - from February 1 to March 31 - compiled in the national Covid-19 databases at Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC). This included vaccination data, antibody and PCR test results, Covid-19 hospitalisations and infection severity data, the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) said in a statement yesterday.
Professor Laith Abu-Raddad, professor of Infectious Disease Epidemiology at Weill Cornell Medicine - Qatar (WCM-Q) of Qatar Foundation, and lead investigator in the research study, explained the significance of the findings.
“At the start of the year, the number of new daily Covid-19 infections in Qatar began to gradually increase, a trend that continued until mid-April,” said Professor Abu-Raddad. “These rising numbers were largely driven by the introduction of new variants into the community; first the UK variant, followed by the South African variant. While extensive clinical trials of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines had shown that these vaccines were 95% effective at preventing symptomatic infection against the original strain of Covid-19, there was a lack of clinical evidence on whether these vaccines were effective against the new variants.”
He continued, “The results of our study are very encouraging, showing that for fully vaccinated people – 14 days after receiving the second dose – vaccination is 89.5% effective at preventing infection from the UK variant and 75% effective at preventing infection from the South African variant.”
Hiam Chemaitelly, senior epidemiologist at WCM-Q and one of the lead investigators in the study, added: “Of most significance is that our study found vaccination to be 97.4% effective in preventing severe, critical or fatal disease due to both the UK and South African variants. Vaccination provided a robust protection against both hospitalisation and death due to Covid-19, regardless of the variant type.”
The research study included investigators and collaborators from the MoPH, HMC, the Primary Health Care Corporation, Sidra Medicine, WCM-Q and Qatar University. Its publication comes as almost 50% of adults have received at least one vaccine dose through Qatar’s National Covid-19 Vaccination Programme.
Dr Abdullatif al-Khal, chair of the National Health Strategic Group on Covid-19 and head of Infectious Diseases at HM, and one of the study investigators, said the findings were good news that prove the effectiveness of the vaccines.
“We know that the UK and South African variants are more highly transmissible and cause more severe symptoms in infected people than the original strain we experienced last year, so having vaccines that are proven to work against these variants is incredibly important," he said. "The Covid-19 pandemic is the biggest public health challenge the world has faced for several decades and has impacted nearly every country across the globe for more than a year.
"The global rollout of vaccines offers hope of a return towards normal life and this joint research study showing the vaccines to be highly effective at preventing severe infection will reassure people here in Qatar and around the world."
Professor Adeel Butt, director of the Clinical Epidemiology Research Unit at HMC and senior investigator in the study, said: “Our findings show that not only do the vaccines offer high levels of protection against severe sickness, but can also significantly prevent an individual from becoming infected with Covid-19. While the vaccines may be less effective at preventing infection from the South African variant, this reduced protection from infection did not translate into reduced protection against severe symptoms and sickness.
"No vaccine is ever 100% effective but the effectiveness rates we are seeing from vaccination are very high and offer more reason to believe we can win the fight against Covid-19 and return to our normal lives.”