Two shots of Pfizer or AstraZeneca effective against India COVID variant

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Two doses from either the Oxford/AstraZeneca or the Pfizer vaccine are over 80 per cent effective in preventing infection from the B1.617.2 variant of COVID-19, first discovered in India, a new United Kingdom government study has reportedly found. "So it is vital to get both doses to gain maximum protection against all existing and emerging variants". The World Health Organization said the predominant lineage of B.1.617 was first identified in India last December, although an earlier version was spotted in October 2020.

But clusters of the B.1.617.2 variant, believed to be more transmissible than the dominant Kent variant, are growing quickly - and could derail Prime Minister Boris Johnson's plans to fully reopen the economy on June 21.

During the same study period, the AstraZeneca vaccine was found to be 60 percent effective against the new strain of the coronavirus, compared with 66 percent against the British variant first detected in Kent.

In a statement, PHE said: "There is now no evidence that this variant causes more severe disease or renders the vaccines now deployed any less effective".

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.

The UK Government Public Health Service announced on Saturday that vaccines that are already being circulated are nearly as effective in protecting against the Indian variant of the coronavirus as they are for other strains.

She said: "One week post the last restriction lifting, we will be monitoring it very carefully".

However, Downing Street has denied that the NHS Test and Trace "temporary delay" in alerting local authorities in hotspot areas to positive cases helped contribute to the spread of the Indian variant.

"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", he said in a statement.

Experts have said that the variant is 40-50 per cent more transmissible than the original parent variant of B.1.1.7.

"In the face of uncertain evidence the risk of over-reacting seems small compared to the potential benefit of delaying a third wave until more people are vaccinated".

There are also other biological reasons why it might find it easier to spread.

India on Saturday reported another 257,000 cases and 4,194 deaths in 24 hours, taking its total to 26.2 million infections and 295,525 deaths.

The Indian variant certainly gives the virus a bit more of an advantage, but it doesn't mean the vaccines won't win out.

There is not enough data to estimate how effective the vaccine is against severe outcomes for the Indian variant, PHE said.

This point was backed by Dr Susan Hopkins, Covid-19 strategic response director for PHE.

It brings the country's total to 4,455,221 since the pandemic started early past year. Separate analysis by PHE indicates that the vaccination programme has so far prevented 13,000 deaths and about 39,100 hospital admissions in older people in England, up to May 9.