COVID-19 vaccines are effective at preventing infections and hospitalizations among U.S. veterans, a new study finds.
Researchers from the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Food and Drug Administration looked at data from the first three months of the shots’ availability.
They found that the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines had an efficacy of 95 percent against infection and were 91 percent effective at preventing hospitalization.
There were also no deaths among fully vaccinated veterans.
The team says the findings shows how protective the vaccines were early on in the roll out and why it was so important to get veterans – who are a population at increased risk of severe Covid – immunized quickly.
Only 22.8 out of every 100,000 of full or partially vaccinated veterans tested positive for COVID-19, compared to 280 out of every 100,000 unvaccinated
Almost one out of every five veterans whose data was gathered were vaccinated for Covid, with older vets more likely to be vaccinated than their younger counterparts. Pictured: A soldier receives a shot of a Covid vaccine in Fort Knox, Kentucky, on September 9, 2021
Researchers gathered data from 6.6 million veterans between December 2020 to March 2021.
They found that 1.3 million – almost one out of every five – received at least one shot of a COVID-19 vaccine during that period.
Older veterans were more likely to have received the shots at this point than their younger counterparts, though researchers found little difference in vaccination rates across racial lines.
At the time, the Covid vaccines were not available to all Americans, but instead only to certain groups depending on what state someone live in.
Seniors were prioritized in basically every state – which is why older veterans had better vaccine coverage – but veterans with certain comorbidities or who were front line workers were eligible in some states as well.
More than 472,000 participants in the study had tested for COVID-19 at some point during the study period, with 15,000 positive cases being detected.
Of the positive cases, 41 were breakthrough cases detected in fully vaccinated people, 270 were in partially vaccinated veterans and 14,799 were among the unvaccinated.
Researchers, who published their findings in JAMA Network Open on Wednesday, found that only 22.8 out of every 100,000 participants who were at least partially vaccinated in the study contracted Covid.
The rate of infection is more than ten-fold for the unvaccinated, with 280 out of every 100,000 people contracting the virus.
When adjusting for other factors, such as age, race and geography, researchers found that the vaccine is 95 percent effective at preventing infection, and 91 percent effective at preventing hospitalization.
There were also no COVID-19 deaths among fully vaccinated participants in the study.
Partial vaccination – meaning receiving only one shot of a two-dose series – still provides protection as well with 64 percent vaccine effectiveness against infection.
One shot was also 48 percent effective at preventing hospitalization and 63 percent effective at preventing deaths, the researchers found.
While the results of the study do capture the initial effectiveness of the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines, the situation in America has changed since data was captured.
The Delta variant, a highly contagious strain of the virus that caused a massive surge of cases in the U.S. over the summer, had not yet reached the nation in March.
More recent data also shows that the vaccine’s effectiveness at preventing infection does wane over time, meaning the earliest adopters of the shots – who would be among those vaccinated seven months ago – will not be as protected now as they were then.
In order to combat the waning effectiveness, booster shots have been made available to people over the age of 65 or with comorbidities that put them at serious risk from the virus.
Currently in the U.S., 65 percent of people have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 56 percent of residents are fully vaccinated.
Just over six million booster doses have been administered as well, according to official data.