Vaccines highly effective against B.1.617.2 variant after 2 doses

Daniel Fowler
May 25, 2021

Addressing fears that B.1.617.2 evades the vaccine effect, experts said that it is not complete evasion but lower protection if large populations have received only first dose.

The study analysed data from the six weeks between April 5 and May 16 to cover the period since the variant emerged in England.

The PHE said it expects to see even higher levels of effectiveness against hospital admissions and deaths.

"Only days after we extended the offer of a vaccine to 34 and 35 year olds, we are now rolling out the invite to 32 and 33 year olds - an incredible step forward in the biggest and most successful vaccination programme in NHS history", said UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock.

Two Pfizer jabs offer up to 88 percent protection, while both doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine make it at least 60 percent effective.

Weekly data shows there are now a total of 3,424 cases of the B.1.617.2 variant in the United Kingdom, with most cases concentrated in the North West and London, although "clusters" are now appearing across the country.

There had been concerns the emergence of the new variant, first identified in India, could blow that plan off course.

Harries added: "The straightforward message is 'get your second dose'".

72 cases of the Indian variant have been detected in Ireland.

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A doctor preparing a dose of the AstraZeneca Vaccine.

With a reopening of the nation pencilled in for June, a Downing Street spokesman said the variant could cause "serious disruption" to the government's timetable.

It says that surge vaccinations - a strategy that some local leaders have called for is "worth considering" but may not be sufficient on to prevent any outbreaks because because protection will take time to develop.

Relatives, family members and cemetery workers prepare to bury the body of a patient who died from the Covid-19 at a graveyard in New Delhi, India on May 22, 2021.

"The UK government last week reduced the gap between doses for those aged over 50 from 12 weeks to eight, in an attempt to ensure the most vulnerable in the UK receive full vaccine protection as quickly as possible", Financial Times reported.

PHE noted that the difference in effectiveness between the vaccines after two doses may be explained by the fact that rollout of second doses of AstraZeneca was later than for the Pfizer vaccine, and other data on antibody profiles show it takes longer to reach maximum effectiveness with the AstraZeneca vaccine.

"This is truly a testament to the heroic work of our wonderful 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. "World Health Organization has not associated the term "Indian variant" with the B.1.617 variant of the coronavirus in any of its reports".

The North West of England has recorded the most number of cases of the variant, with Bolton, Blackburn with Darwen and Bedford among the worst affected.

Separate PHE analysis indicates that the COVID-19 vaccination programme has so far prevented 13,000 deaths and around 39,100 hospitalisations in older people in England, up to 9 May.

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