Two Covid shots effective against India variant: UK health body

Two Covid shots effective against India variant: UK health body

Two Covid shots effective against India variant: UK health body

The recently-released United Kingdom study by Public Health England found both the Pfizer vaccine, authorized for use in the USA on an emergency basis, and the AstraZeneca Plc shot, which isn't yet available in the US, to be "highly effective" against the B.1.617.2 form of the variant first detected in India.

The study, which was completed by public health authorities in England, found that both the Pfizer/BioNTech and the AstraZeneca vaccines offer a good amount of protection against the Indian variant. "So it is vital to get both doses to gain maximum protection against all existing and emerging variants".

This sharply highlights the public health challenge in India as the B.1.617.2 begins to take over as the "dominant variant of concern" here and the country grapples with a severe shortage of vaccines.

As cases spread in India, the sub-lineage of B.1.617, B.1.617.2, is beginning to eclipse other variants including the Kent variant, B.1.1.7 that originated in the UK.

The latest figures came after British prime minister Boris Johnson said on Wednesday that there was "increasing confidence" in government that the vaccines were effective against the Indian variant.

A Government order issued on Friday asked platforms to remove all content that names or refers to "Indian variant".

India's official prickliness over the casual (if technically mistaken) use of a geographical marker to describe coronavirus variants is also at odds with what has been seen elsewhere.

The IT ministry laid emphasis on the fact that the World Health Organization listed the variant presently prevalent in the country as B.1.617, and dubbing it as the "Indian variant" was false and misleading.

"Sequencing wastewater samples provides an additional detection system for variants of concern, enabling us to respond more effectively to outbreaks and better protect citizens", said Chief Executive of the UK Health Security Agency Dr Jenny Harries.

This result is very encouraging, as the Pfizer vaccine has been found to be 93 percent effective against other variants.

PHE said the difference in the effectiveness between the vaccines may be due to the AstraZeneca second dose being rolled out later than the Pfizer vaccine.

But this does not necessarily mean we will see a surge in cases and, crucially, hospital admissions - the protection vaccines give us against serious illness will be much much higher than their ability to block mild infections.

"For the most part, the sky is mostly blue but with a black cloud on the horizon which is the Indian variant", he warned.

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

The study was conducted from April 5 to May 16.

The study, however, mentioned the caveat that the number of cases and follow-up periods were now insufficient to estimate effectiveness of the vaccines against severe disease, including hospitalisation and mortality. Most people with the India variant in areas around Bolton had not been vaccinated.

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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