A new study by Public Health England (PHE) shows for the first time that 2 doses of the COVID-19 vaccines are highly effective against the B.1.617.2 variant first identified in India.
Vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic disease from the B.1.617.2 variant is similar after 2 doses compared to the B.1.1.7 (Kent) variant dominant in the UK. PHE have said that they expect to see even higher levels of effectiveness against hospitalisation and death.
‘This new evidence is groundbreaking – and proves just how valuable our COVID-19 vaccination programme is in protecting the people we love,’ said Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock.
‘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.’
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The study found that, for the period from 5 April to 16 May the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was 88% effective against symptomatic disease from the B.1.617.2 variant 2 weeks after the second dose, compared to 93% effectiveness against the B.1.1.7 variant. Additionally, 2 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine were 60% effective against symptomatic disease from the B.1.617.2 variant compared to 66% effectiveness against the B.1.1.7 variant, and both vaccines were 33% effective against symptomatic disease from B.1.617.2, 3 weeks after the first dose compared to around 50% effectiveness against the B.1.1.7 variant.
‘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,’ said Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at PHE.
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‘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.’