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COVID Vaccines Effective at Preventing Symptomatic Infection in Health Workers

COVID Vaccines Effective at Preventing Symptomatic Infection in Health Workers

Researchers also found that the vaccines work just as well for people who have underlying medical conditions

COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective in preventing symptomatic illness among health care workers in real-world settings.

The study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that health care personnel who received a two-dose regimen of Pfizer–BioNTech vaccine had an 89 percent lower risk for symptomatic illness than those who were unvaccinated. For those who received the two-dose regimen of the Moderna vaccine, the risk was reduced by 96 percent.

The researchers also found that the vaccines appeared to work just as well for people who are over age 50, are in racial or ethnic groups that have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, have underlying medical conditions, and have greater exposure to patients with COVID-19.

The vaccines’ effectiveness was, however, lower in immunocompromised people.

“That this study demonstrated the effectiveness of the Pfizer–BioNTech and Moderna COVID-19 vaccines to protect health care workers—people who worked tirelessly and at great potential risk to care for their friends and neighbors—is a major statement to address any remaining skepticism about the importance of everyone getting vaccinated,” said Dr. David Talan, a professor of emergency medicine and of medicine and infectious diseases at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the university of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), and the study’s co-lead author.

The project, Preventing Emerging Infections through Vaccine Effectiveness Testing, or PREVENT, was conducted with researchers from the University of Iowa’s Carver College of Medicine. The study evaluated nearly 5,000 health care workers—1,482 who had tested positive for COVID-19 and displayed symptoms of the disease and 3,449 who had COVID-19–like symptoms but had tested negative for the disease. The participants were from 33 US academic medical centers, including Olive View–UCLA Medical Center in Sylmar, California. 

All of the participants completed surveys covering their demographic information, job type, and risk factors for severe disease from COVID-19, as well as their vaccination status.

Other findings include:

  • A two-dose regimen of either of the mRNA vaccines reduced the risk of illness by 95 percent among Black and African American people, 89 percent among Hispanic people, 89 percent among Asian or Pacific Islander people, and 94 percent among Indigenous and Alaskan Native people, compared to unvaccinated people.
  • Of all those who received a single dose of either of the two-dose mRNA vaccines, the risk of illness was reduced by 86 percent among Black and African American people, 82 percent among Hispanic people, 80 percent among Asian or Pacific Islander people, and 76 percent among Indigenous and Alaskan Native people compared to unvaccinated people.
  • For people who are obese or overweight, a two-dose regimen reduced the risk of illness by 91 percent; among the same group, partial vaccination reduced the risk by 76 percent among partially vaccinated compared to unvaccinated.
  • For people who have hypertension, a two-dose regimen of either mRNA vaccine reduced the risk of illness by 92 percent, and partial vaccination reduced the risk by 83 percent among partially vaccinated compared to unvaccinated.
  • For people who have asthma, a two-dose regimen of either mRNA vaccine reduced the risk of illness by 91 percent, and partial vaccination reduced the risk by 78 percent among partially vaccinated compared to unvaccinated.
  • For immunocompromised people, the risk of illness was reduced by 39 percent whether they received a single dose or two doses of either mRNA vaccine.
  • Sixty-two people in the study were pregnant at the time they were surveyed. Vaccination was 77 percent effective in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 illness among pregnant people who had received at least one dose of one of the mRNA vaccines.

Because of the relatively short time period of the study—from December 2020, to May 2021—the research does not address how long vaccines continue to provide protection against COVID-19. In addition, data was collected before the emergence of the Delta variant, so the vaccines’ effectiveness today may be different than they would be against earlier variants.

- This press release was originally published on the University of California - Los Angeles website