A new study by Public Health England has shown that two doses of a coronavirus vaccine can be highly effective against the B.1.617.2 variant of the virus first identified in India.
The study by PHE found that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was 88% effective against symptomatic disease from the Indian variant 2 weeks after the second dose, while the AstraZeneca vaccine was 60% effective.
Both vaccines were 33% effective 3 weeks after the first dose, in the study which took place from 5 April to 16 May.
Over recent weeks, concerns had been raised that the Indian variant may make vaccines less effective, and potentially lead to a spike in hospitalisations. The variant is believed to be particularly easy to transmit, much more so than the original variant of COVID-19 in the UK at the start of the pandemic last spring.
The vaccine effectiveness found in the study shows similar results to testing on the B.1.1.7 (Kent) variant of the virus, which was identified in the Autumn.
The data from the new study would suggest that the Indian variant does make vaccines less effective, though not to a particularly bad extent. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was still highly effective in the study and the AstraZeneca vaccine was effective, even if somewhat less so.
Speaking about the study, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said;
“This new evidence is groundbreaking – and proves just how valuable our COVID-19 vaccination programme is in protecting the people we love.
“We can now be confident that over 20 million people – more than 1 in 3 – have significant protection against this new variant, and that number is growing by the hundreds of thousands every single day as more and more people get that vital second dose. I want to thank the scientists and clinicians who have been working around the clock to produce this research.
“It’s clear how important the second dose is to secure the strongest possible protection against COVID-19 and its variants – and I urge everyone to book in their jab when offered.”
Further research is to take place over the coming weeks to estimate the effectiveness of vaccines against severe outcomes from the virus variant. Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at PHE said,
“This study provides reassurance that 2 doses of either vaccine offer high levels of protection against symptomatic disease from the B.1.617.2 variant.
“We expect the vaccines to be even more effective at preventing hospitalisation and death, so it is vital to get both doses to gain maximum protection against all existing and emerging variants.”
To date, more than 37.7 million people in the UK have had their first dose of a coronavirus vaccine, while over 22 million of those people have also had 2 doses of a vaccine.