PHE say one dose of vaccine 33.5% effective against Indian variant

indian variant, covid vaccine
© Manoej Paateel

Public Health England have found that both Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines against the Indian variant (B1617) would have an efficacy of 33.5% in one dose

In India, the documented COVID death toll as of today (25 May) is 307,000. However, the reality of lives lost will be difficult to document – as hospitals continue to lack space and life-saving oxygen, meaning thousands more are dying undocumented.

Though this devastation is thought to be a combination of factors, the Indian variant of COVID is thought to be partially responsible.

The COVID variant known as B1617 is now present in over 21 countries, including the UK. Last night, the UK Government issued official guidance online that those living in areas with high levels of the Indian variant should avoid travelling in and out of their areas.

How effective is a vaccine against this new variant?

A team of researchers at the University of Utah suggested that, if enough people have ‘partial immunity’ – in 10 years, COVID will no longer be capable of anything but a mild infection. For this to work, they say that partial immunity (one dose of the vaccine or antibodies post-infection) should be strong enough to defeat any variants.

The question plaguing healthcare officials and politicians across the UK is if one dose of vaccine is enough to hold against the new variant.

Public Health England (PHE) released a pre-print of their work attempting to figure out if the vaccines available in the UK will be enough to stop the ‘double mutation’ of the Indian variant.

They suggest that both Pfizer and AstraZeneca are only 33.5% effective against it with only one dose. In contrast, both vaccines are 51.1% effective against the Kent variant B1117 in one dose.

What about two doses of the vaccine?

When PHE scientists looked at the full dosage of both Pfizer and AstraZeneca against the Indian variant, they found a different result.

With the Pfizer vaccine, the final effectiveness of both doses is normally 93.4% against the UK variant, not the original form of the virus. But against the Indian variant, both doses create a final protection of 87.9%. This is still extremely high.

With the AstraZeneca vaccine, two doses against the UK variant normally give a protection of 66.1%. Two doses against the Indian variant give a protection level of 59.8%.

Currently, this information is not peer-reviewed – which means further testing is needed to solidify the numbers. The UK Government is expected to release more data about the efficacy of vaccines against the variant over the course of the week.


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