Pfizer COVID vaccine effective against India variant: Britain health body

Andrew Cummings
May 25, 2021

PHE's analysis looked at the protection provided by two Covid-19 vaccines - one developed by the University of Oxford with AstraZeneca and the other by USA pharma giant Pfizer with German biotech company BioNTech - against the B.1.617.2 strain found in India and B.1.1.7 variant first identified in Kent in sout-east England.

But the discovery of a domestic transmission of the variant could complicate the country's efforts to tackle its worst outbreak so far.

Local health agencies are urged to report these cases to the CDC, who will also report them to the World Health Organization.

That's according to date published by Public Health England, which showed the two jabs had an efficiency of 81% against the B1.617.2 variant.

According to the PHE study, which took place between April 5 and May 16, the Pfizer vaccine was 88 per cent effective against symptomatic disease from the India-related variant two weeks after the second dose, compared with 93 per cent effectiveness against the variant identified in Kent.

"So I think we classify that as moderate certainty around the first dose, but low levels of confidence around the second dose".

The study, which was completed by public health authorities in England, found that both the Pfizer/BioNTech and the AstraZeneca vaccines offer a good amount of protection against the Indian variant.

Dr Cillian de Gascun, Medical Virologist and Director of the National Virus Reference Laboratory, also sounded the alarm bell about the new Indian mutation stating: 'The B.1.617.2 variant continues to increase, with 72 cases now identified in Ireland.

Concern about rising cases in Britain of the variant first found in India prompted Germany to say on Friday that anyone entering the country from the United Kingdom would have to quarantine for two weeks on arrival.

The B.1.617 variant is one of the world's major variants of concern.

The underlying assumption was that if the vaccine is equally effective against each variant a similar proportion of cases with either variant would be expected in unvaccinated compared to vaccinated individuals.

U.S. President Joe Biden has banned most travel from India, though the order doesn't apply to U.S. citizens or permanent residents.

"PHE is carrying out increased laboratory testing to better understand the impact of the mutations on the behaviour of the virus".

The UK has been embracing a return to normality - but could it all change with the surge in Indian variant cases?

The UK is sampling around 50% to 60% of all positive Covid-19 samples, said Moritz Kraemer an epidemiologist at the University of Oxford, which provides crucial detail of the distribution of the B.1.617 variant.

The figures are up to 19 May and mark a rise of 2,111 cases on the previous week.

Thus far, 10.7% of Indians have received at least one dose, and 3% have received both doses.

"This is truly a testament to the heroic work of our awesome NHS and care staff, volunteers and local authorities across the country who have helped deliver over 50 million jabs at lightning speed across England, keeping us on track to offer a vaccine to everyone by July", he said.

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