The Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines are “highly effective” against symptomatic disease from the so-called Indian variant coronavirus – but only after two doses, a study has found.
Both vaccines are 33 per cent effective against the Indian variant three weeks after the first dose.
But following a second dose, protection against the B.1.617.2 Indian variant improved dramatically.
The Pfizer vaccine was found to be 88 per cent effective at stopping symptomatic disease from the Indian variant two weeks after the second dose.
The AstraZeneca jab was 60 per cent effective against the Indian variant – but researchers say there is data demonstrating that the AstraZeneca vaccine takes longer for the two doses to become fully effective.
The main lesson here is ‘get the two doses’
Public Health England (PHE), which ran the study, said the difference in effectiveness between the vaccines after two doses “may be explained by the fact the administration of second doses of AstraZeneca was later than for the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine – and other data on antibody profiles show it takes longer to reach maximum effectiveness with the AstraZeneca vaccine”.
In other words, as has been the case for the much-maligned AstraZeneca, it may take time for the vaccine to fully demonstrate its true efficacy.
PHE said: “As with other variants, even higher levels of effectiveness are expected against hospitalisation and death.”
There are, as yet, insufficient cases and follow-up periods to estimate vaccine effectiveness against severe outcomes from the B.1.617.2 variant – but PHE said it will “continue to evaluate this over the coming weeks”.
The UK government is talking up this promising development.
Dr Mary Ramsay, Head of Immunisation at PHE, in a prepared statement said:
“This study provides reassurance that two 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.”
Matt Hancock, the UK’s health and social care secretary, described the new evidence as “groundbreaking”.
The figures have reportedly boosted hopes that the UK government “can end the country’s lockdown as planned on June 21,” according to a report in the Financial Times.