The ongoing discovery and rise of highly contagious COVID-19 variants have caused concern among health officials that existing versions of vaccines won't be effective against the new strains. This is particularly true of variant B.1.617.2, which was recently discovered to be responsible for India's devastating surge and half of all new cases globally. But a new study has determined just how well the Pfizer vaccine protects against the India variant after both doses have been administered. Read on to see how effective the shots can be against the latest strain.
According to a recent study conducted between April 5 and May 16 by Public Health England, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is 88 percent effective against symptomatic disease from the B.1.617.2 COVID variant two weeks after the second dose. The new research also showed that the vaccine was 93 percent effective two weeks after the second dose against the "British variant" B.1.1.7 that has become the dominant strain in the U.K. after being discovered there in December.
"I'm increasingly confident that we're on track for the roadmap [for reopening], because this data shows that the vaccine, after two doses, works just as effectively [against the Indian variant]," U.K. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said in a press release.
The study also found that the shots also lowered the likelihood of serious outcomes from the India variant, which has spread to almost 50 countries including the U.S. and was labeled a "variant of concern" by the World Health Organization (WHO) in early May. "Vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic disease from the B.1.617.2 variant is similar after 2 doses compared to the B.1.1.7 (Kent) variant dominant in the U.K., and we expect to see even higher levels of effectiveness against hospitalization and death," the study authors wrote.
However, results also found that the first dose of the two-shot Pfizer vaccine was just 33 percent effective against B.1.617.2 after three weeks, compared with being 50 percent effective against B.1.1.7. Hancock said the most recent research highlights "how important the second dose is to secure the strongest possible protection" against the spread of COVID-19 and its variants, adding that receiving both shots is "absolutely vital."