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BackgroundThe UK delivered its first "booster" COVID-19 vaccine doses in September 2021, initially to individuals at high risk of severe disease, then to all adults. The BNT162b2 Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was used initially, then also Moderna mRNA-1273.MethodsWith the approval of the National Health Service England, we used routine clinical data to estimate the effectiveness of boosting with BNT162b2 or mRNA-1273 compared with no boosting in eligible adults who had received two primary course vaccine doses. We matched each booster recipient with an unboosted control on factors relating to booster priority status and prior COVID-19 immunization. We adjusted for additional factors in Cox models, estimating hazard ratios up to 182 days (6 months) following booster dose. We estimated hazard ratios overall and within the following periods: 1-14, 15-42, 43-69, 70-97, 98-126, 127-152, and 155-182 days. Outcomes included a positive SARS-CoV-2 test, COVID-19 hospitalization, COVID-19 death, non-COVID-19 death, and fracture.ResultsWe matched 8,198,643 booster recipients with unboosted controls. Adjusted hazard ratios over 6-month follow-up were: positive SARS-CoV-2 test 0.75 (0.74, 0.75); COVID-19 hospitalization 0.30 (0.29, 0.31); COVID-19 death 0.11 (0.10, 0.14); non-COVID-19 death 0.22 (0.21, 0.23); and fracture 0.77 (0.75, 0.78). Estimated effectiveness of booster vaccines against severe COVID-19-related outcomes peaked during the first 3 months following the booster dose. By 6 months, the cumulative incidence of positive SARS-CoV-2 test was higher in boosted than unboosted individuals.ConclusionsWe estimate that COVID-19 booster vaccination, compared with no booster vaccination, provided substantial protection against COVID-19 hospitalization and COVID-19 death but only limited protection against positive SARS-CoV-2 test. Lower rates of fracture in boosted than unboosted individuals may suggest unmeasured confounding. Observational studies should report estimated vaccine effectiveness against nontarget and negative control outcomes.

Original publication




Journal article


Epidemiology (Cambridge, Mass.)

Publication Date





568 - 578


From the Population Health Sciences, University of Bristol, Oakfield House, Oakfield Grove, Bristol, United Kingdom.


and the OpenSAFELY collaborative, Humans, Immunization, Secondary, Hospitalization, Proportional Hazards Models, Adult, Aged, Middle Aged, England, Female, Male, COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2, COVID-19 Vaccines, Vaccine Efficacy, BNT162 Vaccine, 2019-nCoV Vaccine mRNA-1273