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Swiss health ministry data shows vaccinated people seldom hit by COVID-19

ZURICH, June 24 (Reuters) - Switzerland’s move to allow large public events with 10,000-plus people from Saturday comes as government data appears to show vaccines are helping control new infections that are mostly hitting people who remain unprotected.

Only 209 of 180,000 new infections recorded in Switzerland between Jan. 27 and June 21 were in people fully vaccinated with shots from Moderna or Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech, according to Swiss Federal Health Ministry data provided to Reuters on Thursday.

The ministry said the vast majority of these so-called breakthrough cases -- infections of fully vaccinated people -- that were studied using genetic sequencing involved the Alpha variant, first recorded in Britain and which began spreading in Switzerland around the new year.

Just a single breakthrough infection has been reported for the more infectious Delta variant, first documented in India and now causing concern globally as it fast becomes the dominant variant.

“There is currently no evidence that the Delta variant leads to more vaccine breakthroughs than Alpha,” a Health Ministry spokesman said.

However there is emerging, and sometimes conflicting, data regarding the Delta variant’s threat.

One study, from Scotland, indicated the Delta variant may double hospitalization risk.

In another, Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines were judged effective against the variant, while yet another here from a U.K. and Indian group concluded Delta's rapid growth was "most likely explained by a combination of increased transmissibility and immune evasion" including vaccine escape.

England, which has delayed fully reopening as cases rise despite high vaccination rates, has trimmed the recommended gap between first and second COVID-19 shots to eight weeks from 12 for some groups of the population, because of the fast-spreading Delta variant and data showing protection is much higher after the second dose.

In Switzerland, 2.6 million of its 8.6-million-person population have received two doses of mRNA vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer, the only two available in the country.

Another 1.5 million people have received a single shot and are awaiting a booster. (Reporting by John Miller in Zurich, Josephine Mason in London and Christine Soares in New York, Editing by William Maclean)

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