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AZ, Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines 'highly effective' against Indian variant

UK study finds vaccines are likely to be effective in preventing hospitalisation/death

A UK study has found that two doses of either the AstraZeneca or Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccines are ‘highly effective’ against the recently identified Indian variant, B.1.617.2.  

According to the study, led by Public Health England, the effectiveness of either vaccine after two doses is similar against the B.1.617.2 variant compared with the B.1.1.7 or Kent variant.

Between 5 April and 16 May, researchers found that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was 88% effective against symptomatic disease caused by the B.1.617.2 variant two weeks after the second dose, compared to 93% against the B.1.1.7 variant.

In addition, AZ's vaccine was 60% effective against symptomatic disease from the Indian variant following two doses, compared to 66% effectiveness against the Kent variant.

However, three weeks after the first dose, researchers did note a slight drop in effectiveness against the Indian variant compared to the Kent variant – both vaccines were found to be 33% effective against symptomatic disease from B.1.617.2 compared to around 50% effectiveness for the B.1.1.7 variant at this time point.

PHE added that the difference in effectiveness between the vaccines after two doses could be attributed to the later rollout of second doses of the AZ vaccine compared to the Pfizer/BioNTech jab.

Additional data on antibody profiles shows it may take longer to reach maximum effectiveness with the AZ vaccine, PHE said in a statement.

PHE said that it is also expecting ‘even higher’ efficacy for the vaccines against hospitalisation or death caused by the Indian variant, although currently there are insufficient cases and follow-up periods to determine vaccine effectiveness against severe outcomes from the B.1.617.2 variant.

“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,” he added.

Earlier today, the government issued advice encouraging people to avoid travel into and out of eight areas where the B.1.617.2 variant is prevalent.

This includes Kirklees, Bedford, Burnley, Leicester, Hounslow and North Tyneside.

The guidance advises people to meet outside where possible, keep two metres apart from people not in their household and avoid travel unless it is essential.

Article by
Lucy Parsons

25th May 2021

From: Research

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