New data from the United Kingdom indicates that the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is effective against the India variant, which has previously been labeled by U.S. health officials as a “variant of interest.”
India has suffered an increasingly difficult crisis in recent months, hitting a global high in daily coronavirus deaths with 4,529 on Wednesday.
With several variants appearing within the country, health officials in other countries feared the possibility that the current vaccines would see reduced efficacy. Earlier in May, France’s health minister reported around 20 cases of the India variant, identified as B.1.617.
However, the British government has touted a new study published by Public Health England that shows for the first time that the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines remain “highly effective” against the India variant.
The study, which covered a five-week period between April 5 and May 16, found that the Pfizer vaccine was 88% effective against the India variant two weeks after the second dose, and the AstraZeneca vaccine was 60% effective against variant in the same time frame.
Most importantly, the study also looked at effectiveness after administering just one dose of each vaccine, finding only 33% effectiveness from either vaccine three weeks after one dose.
For comparison, the flu vaccine usually has an effectiveness between 40-60%, according to CDC.
The British government noted that a factor in the difference between each vaccine’s effectiveness may lie in the “rollout” of the second dose of AstraZeneca, which was later than that of the Pfizer vaccine.
“This new evidence is groundbreaking – and proves just how valuable our COVID-19 vaccination program is in protecting the people we love,” Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said. “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.”
Nadhim Zahawi, the UK’s minister for COVID-19 vaccine deployment, called the data “astounding” and stressed the importance of getting two jabs.