New Delhi: The English health body on Saturday (May 22, 2021) stated that the two doses of the COVID-19 vaccines are 'highly effective' against the B.1.617.2 variant which was first identified in India.
The new study by the Public Health England (PHE) said that the vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic disease from the B.1.617.2 variant is similar after two doses compared to the B.1.1.7 (Kent) variant dominant in the United Kingdom.
"We expect to see even higher levels of effectiveness against hospitalisation and death," it said.
The study found the following three things for the period from April 5 to May 16, 2021:
1. The Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus 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.
2. Two 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.
3. Both vaccines were 33% effective against symptomatic disease from B.1.617.2, three weeks after the 1st dose compared to around 50% effectiveness against the B.1.1.7 variant.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock called the new evidence 'groundbreaking' and said that over 20 million people – more than 1 in 3 – have significant protection against this new variant.
"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," Hancock said.
According to Minister for COVID-19 Vaccine Deployment Nadhim Zahawi, the COVID-19 vaccines have saved 13,000 lives and prevented 39,100 hospitalisations.
Earlier, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson had warned that the variant found in India is more transmissible and ordered an acceleration of remaining second doses to the over 50s and people who are clinically vulnerable.