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To date, coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) becomes increasingly fierce due to the emergence of variants. Rapid herd immunity through vaccination is needed to block the mutation and prevent the emergence of variants that can completely escape the immune surveillance. We aimed to systematically evaluate the effectiveness and safety of COVID-19 vaccines in the real world and to establish a reliable evidence-based basis for the actual protective effect of the COVID-19 vaccines, especially in the ensuing waves of infections dominated by variants.
We searched PubMed, Embase and Web of Science from inception to July 22, 2021. Observational studies that examined the effectiveness and safety of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines among people vaccinated were included. Random-effects or fixed-effects models were used to estimate the pooled vaccine effectiveness (VE) and incidence rate of adverse events after vaccination, and their 95% confidence intervals (CI).
A total of 58 studies (32 studies for vaccine effectiveness and 26 studies for vaccine safety) were included. A single dose of vaccines was 41% (95% CI: 28–54%) effective at preventing SARS-CoV-2 infections, 52% (31–73%) for symptomatic COVID-19, 66% (50–81%) for hospitalization, 45% (42–49%) for Intensive Care Unit (ICU) admissions, and 53% (15–91%) for COVID-19-related death; and two doses were 85% (81–89%) effective at preventing SARS-CoV-2 infections, 97% (97–98%) for symptomatic COVID-19, 93% (89–96%) for hospitalization, 96% (93–98%) for ICU admissions, and 95% (92–98%) effective for COVID-19-related death, respectively. The pooled VE was 85% (80–91%) for the prevention of Alpha variant of SARS-CoV-2 infections, 75% (71–79%) for the Beta variant, 54% (35–74%) for the Gamma variant, and 74% (62–85%) for the Delta variant. The overall pooled incidence rate was 1.5% (1.4–1.6%) for adverse events, 0.4 (0.2–0.5) per 10 000 for severe adverse events, and 0.1 (0.1–0.2) per 10 000 for death after vaccination.
SARS-CoV-2 vaccines have reassuring safety and could effectively reduce the death, severe cases, symptomatic cases, and infections resulting from SARS-CoV-2 across the world. In the context of global pandemic and the continuous emergence of SARS-CoV-2 variants, accelerating vaccination and improving vaccination coverage is still the most important and urgent matter, and it is also the final means to end the pandemic.
Since its outbreak, coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has spread rapidly, with a sharp rise in the accumulative number of infections worldwide. As of August 8, 2021, COVID-19 has already killed more than 4.2 million people and more than 203 million people were infected . Given its alarming-spreading speed and the high cost of completely relying on non-pharmaceutical measures, we urgently need safe and effective vaccines to cover susceptible populations and restore people’s lives into the original .
According to global statistics, as of August 2, 2021, there are 326 candidate vaccines, 103 of which are in clinical trials, and 19 vaccines have been put into normal use, including 8 inactivated vaccines and 5 protein subunit vaccines, 2 RNA vaccines, as well as 4 non-replicating viral vector vaccines . Our World in Data simultaneously reported that 27.3% of the world population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, and 13.8% is fully vaccinated .
To date, COVID-19 become increasingly fierce due to the emergence of variants [5,6,7]. Rapid herd immunity through vaccination is needed to block the mutation and prevent the emergence of variants that can completely escape the immune surveillance [6, 8]. Several reviews systematically evaluated the effectiveness and/or safety of the three mainstream vaccines on the market (inactivated virus vaccines, RNA vaccines and viral vector vaccines) based on random clinical trials (RCT) yet [9,10,11,12,13].
In general, RNA vaccines are the most effective, followed by viral vector vaccines and inactivated virus vaccines [10,11,12,13]. The current safety of COVID-19 vaccines is acceptable for mass vaccination, but long-term monitoring of vaccine safety is needed, especially in older people with underlying conditions [9,10,11,12,13]. Inactivated vaccines had the lowest incidence of adverse events and the safety comparisons between mRNA vaccines and viral vectors were controversial [9, 10].
RCTs usually conduct under a very demanding research circumstance, and tend to be highly consistent and limited in terms of population characteristics and experimental conditions. Actually, real-world studies differ significantly from RCTs in terms of study conditions and mass vaccination in real world requires taking into account factors, which are far more complex, such as widely heterogeneous populations, vaccine supply, willingness, medical accessibility, etc. Therefore, the real safety and effectiveness of vaccines turn out to be a major concern of international community. The results of a mass vaccination of CoronaVac in Chile demonstrated a protective effectiveness of 65.9% against the onset of COVID-19 after complete vaccination procedures , while the outcomes of phase 3 trials in Brazil and Turkey were 50.7% and 91.3%, reported on Sinovac’s website . As for the Delta variant, the British claimed 88% protection after two doses of BNT162b2, compared with 67% for AZD1222 . What is surprising is that the protection of BNT162b2 against infection in Israel is only 39% . Several studies reported the effectiveness and safety of the COVID-19 vaccine in the real world recently, but the results remain controversial [17,18,19,20]. A comprehensive meta-analysis based upon the real-world studies is still in an urgent demand, especially for evaluating the effect of vaccines on variation strains. In the present study, we aimed to systematically evaluate the effectiveness and safety of the COVID-19 vaccine in the real world and to establish a reliable evidence-based basis for the actual protective effect of the COVID-19 vaccines, especially in the ensuing waves of infections dominated by variants.
Search strategy and selection criteria
Our methods were described in detail in our published protocol [PROSPERO (Prospective register of systematic reviews) registration, CRD42021267110]. We searched eligible studies published by 22 July 2021, from three databases including PubMed, Embase and Web of Science by the following search terms: (effectiveness OR safety) AND (COVID-19 OR coronavirus OR SARS-CoV-2) AND (vaccine OR vaccination). We used EndNoteX9.0 (Thomson ResearchSoft, Stanford, USA) to manage records, screen and exclude duplicates. This study was strictly performed according to the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA).
We included observational studies that examined the effectiveness and safety of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) vaccines among people vaccinated with SARS-CoV-2 vaccines. The following studies were excluded: (1) irrelevant to the subject of the meta-analysis, such as studies that did not use SARS-CoV-2 vaccination as the exposure; (2) insufficient data to calculate the rate for the prevention of COVID-19, the prevention of hospitalization, the prevention of admission to the ICU, the prevention of COVID-19-related death, or adverse events after vaccination; (3) duplicate studies or overlapping participants; (4) RCT studies, reviews, editorials, conference papers, case reports or animal experiments; and (5) studies that did not clarify the identification of COVID-19.
Studies were identified by two investigators (LQ and QCY) independently following the criteria above, while discrepancies reconciled by a third investigator (LJ).
Data extraction and quality assessment
The primary outcome was the effectiveness of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines. The following data were extracted independently by two investigators (LQ and QCY) from the selected studies: (1) basic information of the studies, including first author, publication year and study design; (2) characteristics of the study population, including sample sizes, age groups, setting or locations; (3) kinds of the SARS-CoV-2 vaccines; (4) outcomes for the effectiveness of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines: the number of laboratory-confirmed COVID-19, hospitalization for COVID-19, admission to the ICU for COVID-19, and COVID-19-related death; and (5) outcomes for the safety of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines: the number of adverse events after vaccination.
We evaluated the risk of bias using the Newcastle–Ottawa quality assessment scale for cohort studies and case–control studies . and assess the methodological quality using the checklist recommended by Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) . Cohort studies and case–control studies were classified as having low (≥ 7 stars), moderate (5–6 stars), and high risk of bias (≤ 4 stars) with an overall quality score of 9 stars. For cross-sectional studies, we assigned each item of the AHRQ checklist a score of 1 (answered “yes”) or 0 (answered “no” or “unclear”), and summarized scores across items to generate an overall quality score that ranged from 0 to 11. Low, moderate, and high risk of bias were identified as having a score of 8–11, 4–7 and 0–3, respectively.
Two investigators (LQ and QCY) independently assessed study quality, with disagreements resolved by a third investigator (LJ).
Data synthesis and statistical analysis
We performed a meta-analysis to pool data from included studies and assess the effectiveness and safety of SARS-CoV-2 vaccines by clinical outcomes (rates of the prevention of COVID-19, the prevention of hospitalization, the prevention of admission to the ICU, the prevention of COVID-19-related death, and adverse events after vaccination). Random-effects or fixed-effects models were used to pool the rates and adjusted estimates across studies separately, based on the heterogeneity between estimates (I2). Fixed-effects models were used if I2 ≤ 50%, which represented low to moderate heterogeneity and random-effects models were used if I2 > 50%, representing substantial heterogeneity.
We conducted subgroup analyses to investigate the possible sources of heterogeneity by using vaccine kinds, vaccination status, sample size, and study population as grouping variables. We used the Q test to conduct subgroup comparisons and variables were considered significant between subgroups if the subgroup difference P value was less than 0.05. Publication bias was assessed by funnel plot and Egger’s regression test. We analyzed data using Stata version 16.0 (StataCorp, Texas, USA).
A total of 4844 records were searched from the three databases. 2484 duplicates were excluded. After reading titles and abstracts, we excluded 2264 reviews, RCT studies, duplicates and other studies meeting our exclude criteria. Among the 96 studies under full-text review, 41 studies were excluded (Fig. 1). Ultimately, with three grey literatures included, this final meta-analysis comprised 58 eligible studies, including 32 studies [14, 15, 17,18,19,20, 23,24,25,26,27,28,29,30,31,32,33,34,35,36,37,38,39,40,41,42,43,44,45,46,47,48] for vaccine effectiveness and 26 studies [49,50,51,52,53,54,55,56,57,58,59,60,61,62,63,64,65,66,67,68,69,70,71,72,73,74] for vaccine safety. Characteristics of included studies are showed in Additional file 1: Table S1, Additional file 2: Table S2. The risk of bias of all studies we included was moderate or low.
Créditos: Comité científico Covid