Two Covid shots effective against India Variant: English health authority

A health worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine on March 8, 2021 at the Senja-Cashew Community Center in Singapore.

Wei Leng Tay | Bloomberg | Getty Images

A double dose of Covid-19 vaccines is almost as effective against the fast-spreading variant of the coronavirus, which was first identified in India, as it is against the UK’s dominant strain, British health officials said on Saturday.

The UK Health Secretary said the data was groundbreaking and he was increasingly hoping the government could lift further Covid restrictions next month.

A study by Public Health England found that the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine was 88% effective against symptomatic disease variant B.1.617.2 two weeks after the second dose.

This compared to an effectiveness of 93% against the strain B.1.1.7 “Kent”, which is the dominant COVID variant in Great Britain.

Two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine were 60% effective against symptomatic disease of the Indian variant, compared with 66% effectiveness against the Kent variant, PHE said.

“I am increasingly confident that we are on the right track for the roadmap because these data show that the vaccine is just as effective after two doses (against the Indian variant),” Health Secretary Matt Hancock told broadcasters.

The government plans to lift the remaining coronavirus restrictions on June 21.

Great Britain has launched Europe’s fastest vaccination program to date, but has faced a new challenge with the spread of the variant first found in India.

The data released on Saturday showed that the new Covid cases reported in the UK were dropping in the seven days leading up to Jan.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson earlier this month ordered an acceleration of the remaining second doses for those over 50 and those at risk.

PHE said a first dose of both vaccines at three weeks was 33% effective against symptomatic diseases of B.1.617.2, less than their 50% effectiveness against B.1.1.7.

Hancock said this shows that it is “absolutely important” to get both doses of the vaccine.

Concerns over rising cases of the UK variant, first found in India, prompted Germany on Friday to say that anyone entering the country from the UK must be quarantined for two weeks upon arrival.

Also on Friday, the head of the German health institute said that existing Covid-19 vaccines may be less effective against variant B.1.617.2.