A new study shows that the two vaccines work against the COVID-19 variant. After the administration of the second dose, the Pfizer vaccine was 88% effective against symptomatic disease (compared to 93% effectiveness for the British variant) and the AstraZeneca was 60% effective (compared to 66% for the British variant).
As countries hopefully continue vaccination campaigns, the light at the end of the pandemic tunnel starts to be visible. But the light is shrouded by the potential of new variants that could evade the protection granted by the vaccines. For the most part, existing vaccines seem to also work on the current variants of concern. However, we’ve also seen that the South African variant is especially problematic when it comes to vaccine protection.
So when a new variant of concern was reported in India, fears emerged that this variant too could be problematic. Luckily, this doesn’t seem to be the case. Both the Pfizer and the AstraZeneca vaccine seem to offer good protection against it, a new reassuring study showed.
Public Health England, which ran the study, said the vaccines could offer even greater protection against severe cases and hospitalization — the study only looked at these two vaccines, but there’s a good chance that the Moderna vaccine also offers similar protection, it’s just that the number of people who have received it was too small for them to include it in their research.
Overall, there were 12,675 genome-sequenced cases in the study, including 1,054 of the Indian variant, known as B.1.617.2. Dr Susan Hopkins, Covid-19 strategic response director for PHE, told The Guardian:
“We have now got early evidence that the vaccine protects [against the India variant],” she said. “That’s really good news. What we are saying now is push the second dose and get as many people vaccinated as possible.”
The study also confirmed that getting two doses of the vaccine offers much better protection than just one. When it comes to getting a single dose, the variant does reduce the effectiveness of vaccines somewhat: both vaccines offered just 33% protection after the first dose, compared to over 50% for the British variant.
This emphasizes the importance of vaccinating people with both doses as quickly as possible — you’re not really safe after one dose, and getting the first dose could lull people into a false sense of security.
There are still plenty of unknowns when it comes to the variant, and cases with this variant have been surging outside of India as well. Other countries have also ramped up research on this particular variant but, until we have enough information, it’s better to err on the side of caution, experts say. Nevertheless, the fact that vaccines are so effective shows that vaccination is truly the way out of the pandemic — and the quicker we can do it, the better.