COVID-19 vaccine coverage in health-care workers in England and effectiveness of BNT162b2 mRNA vaccine against infection (SIREN): a prospective, multicentre, cohort study

Lancet. 2021 Apr 23;397(10286):1725-1735. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(21)00790-X. Online ahead of print.


Background: BNT162b2 mRNA and ChAdOx1 nCOV-19 adenoviral vector vaccines have been rapidly rolled out in the UK from December, 2020. We aimed to determine the factors associated with vaccine coverage for both vaccines and documented the vaccine effectiveness of the BNT162b2 mRNA vaccine in a cohort of health-care workers undergoing regular asymptomatic testing.

Methods: The SIREN study is a prospective cohort study among staff (aged ≥18 years) working in publicly-funded hospitals in the UK. Participants were assigned into either the positive cohort (antibody positive or history of infection [indicated by previous positivity of antibody or PCR tests]) or the negative cohort (antibody negative with no previous positive test) at the beginning of the follow-up period. Baseline risk factors were collected at enrolment, symptom status was collected every 2 weeks, and vaccination status was collected through linkage to the National Immunisations Management System and questionnaires. Participants had fortnightly asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 PCR testing and monthly antibody testing, and all tests (including symptomatic testing) outside SIREN were captured. Data cutoff for this analysis was Feb 5, 2021. The follow-up period was Dec 7, 2020, to Feb 5, 2021. The primary outcomes were vaccinated participants (binary ever vacinated variable; indicated by at least one vaccine dose recorded by at least one of the two vaccination data sources) for the vaccine coverage analysis and SARS-CoV-2 infection confirmed by a PCR test for the vaccine effectiveness analysis. We did a mixed-effect logistic regression analysis to identify factors associated with vaccine coverage. We used a piecewise exponential hazard mixed-effects model (shared frailty-type model) using a Poisson distribution to calculate hazard ratios to compare time-to-infection in unvaccinated and vaccinated participants and estimate the impact of the BNT162b2 vaccine on all PCR-positive infections (asymptomatic and symptomatic). This study is registered with ISRCTN, number ISRCTN11041050, and is ongoing.

Findings: 23 324 participants from 104 sites (all in England) met the inclusion criteria for this analysis and were enrolled. Included participants had a median age of 46·1 years (IQR 36·0-54·1) and 19 692 (84%) were female; 8203 (35%) were assigned to the positive cohort at the start of the analysis period, and 15 121 (65%) assigned to the negative cohort. Total follow-up time was 2 calendar months and 1 106 905 person-days (396 318 vaccinated and 710 587 unvaccinated). Vaccine coverage was 89% on Feb 5, 2021, 94% of whom had BNT162b2 vaccine. Significantly lower coverage was associated with previous infection, gender, age, ethnicity, job role, and Index of Multiple Deprivation score. During follow-up, there were 977 new infections in the unvaccinated cohort, an incidence density of 14 infections per 10 000 person-days; the vaccinated cohort had 71 new infections 21 days or more after their first dose (incidence density of eight infections per 10 000 person-days) and nine infections 7 days after the second dose (incidence density four infections per 10 000 person-days). In the unvaccinated cohort, 543 (56%) participants had typical COVID-19 symptoms and 140 (14%) were asymptomatic on or 14 days before their PCR positive test date, compared with 29 (36%) with typical COVID-19 symptoms and 15 (19%) asymptomatic in the vaccinated cohort. A single dose of BNT162b2 vaccine showed vaccine effectiveness of 70% (95% CI 55-85) 21 days after first dose and 85% (74-96) 7 days after two doses in the study population.

Interpretation: Our findings show that the BNT162b2 vaccine can prevent both symptomatic and asymptomatic infection in working-age adults. This cohort was vaccinated when the dominant variant in circulation was B1.1.7 and shows effectiveness against this variant.

Funding: Public Health England, UK Department of Health and Social Care, and the National Institute for Health Research.