BREATHE - Health Data Research Hub for Respiratory Health


Scottish vaccine roll-out working, data suggests

Vaccination has been linked to a substantial reduction in the risk of Covid-19 admissions to Scotland’s hospitals, landmark research suggests.

The study is the first to describe across an entire country the effect of the Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca jabs in the community on preventing severe illness resulting in hospitalisation.

Previous results about vaccine efficacy have come from clinical trials.

Hospitalisation drop

By the fourth week after receiving the initial dose, the Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines were shown to reduce the risk of hospitalisation from Covid-19 by up to 85 per cent and 94 per cent, respectively.

Among those aged 80 years and over - one of the highest risk groups - vaccination was associated with an 81 per cent reduction in hospitalisation risk in the fourth week, when the results for both vaccines were combined. 

These results are very encouraging and have given us great reasons to be optimistic for the future. We now have national evidence – across an entire country – that vaccination provides protection against Covid-19 hospitalisations. Roll-out of the first vaccine dose now needs to be accelerated globally to help overcome this terrible disease.

Professor Aziz SheikhLead researcher and Director of BREATHE

Entire population

As part of the EAVE II project, which uses patient data to track the pandemic and the vaccine roll out in real time, researchers from the Universities of Edinburgh, Strathclyde, Aberdeen, Glasgow and St Andrew’s and Public Health Scotland (PHS) analysed a dataset covering the entire Scottish population of 5.4 million.

EAVE II, a BREATHE-associated project, was set up in early 2020 in anticipation of vaccination efforts, ready to monitor their impact as soon as they became available.

Data on vaccine effect was gathered between 8 December and 15 February. During this period, 1.14 million vaccines were administered and 21 per cent of the Scottish population had received a first dose based on Scottish Government prioritisation.

These results are important as we move from expectation to firm evidence of benefit from vaccines. Across the Scottish population the results shown a substantial effect on reducing the risk of admission to hospital from a single dose of vaccine. For anyone offered the vaccine I encourage them to get vaccinated. We are continuing our evaluation and look forward to describing the benefits that we hope will follow the second doses of these vaccines.

Dr Jim McMenaminNational Covid-19 Incident Director at PHS

First jab

The Pfizer vaccine has been received by some 650,000 people and 490,000 have had the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

Researchers analysed data for every week during this period – including GP records on vaccination, hospital admissions, death registrations and laboratory test results – and compared the outcomes of those who had received their first jab with those who had not.

These early national results give a reason to be more optimistic about the control of the epidemic. They also show the value of linked national data sets with academic research groups working closely with public health institutes.

Professor Chris RobertsonProfessor of Public Health Epidemiology at the University of Strathclyde

The preliminary results have been posted on the SSRN preprint server and submitted to a journal to undergo peer review.

The study team says the findings are applicable to other countries that are using the Pfizer and Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines. They caution that the data does not allow for comparisons between the two.

The work was funded by the Medical Research Council, the National Institute for Health Research and Health Data Research UK, and supported by the Scottish Government.

Additional support has been provided through Public Health Scotland and Scottish Government Director-General Health and Social Care, and the UKRI COVID-19 National Core Studies Data and Connectivity programme led by HDR UK.

These important results are the first nationwide data to demonstrate that vaccines reduce Covid-19 related admissions to hospital in the real world.  When HDR UK announced the rapid funding call in December for Covid-19 research projects as part of the UKRI National Core Studies' Data & Connectivity programme, this was exactly the type of rapid impact we hoped to achieve, so all credit to the UK-wide team. 

Importantly, the data used in this research is accessible via the HDR Innovation Gateway; supporting the UK's research community by making health datasets easily discoverable and accessible. This commitment to open collaborative science at scale is vital in our quest to combat Covid-19.

Professor Andrew MorrisDirector, Health Data Research UK

Related links


BREATHE-associated projects

Scottish Government Vaccine Priority List

Scottish Government Guidance on Covid-19


Link to the pre-print The Lancet paper on SSRN