Britain’s health body said Saturday that the two-shot Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine may be effective against a more transmissible variant of the infection first detected in India.
Public Health England made the announcement along with the findings of a study conducted from April 5 to May 16 of more than 1,000 individuals known to have been infected with the B.1.617.2 variant.
Researchers in the study found that the Pfizer-BioNTech shot was 88 percent effective at preventing symptomatic cases of COVID-19 resulting from the variant found in India two weeks after the second dose.
Comparatively, the same shot is about 93 percent effective against the B.117 strain, which is currently considered the dominant variant in the U.K.
The news comes amid concerns about this particular variant that has spread in the U.K.
The U.K. recorded more than 3,000 cases of the variant as of Saturday. The variant is believed to be behind the massive surge of infections among India’s population of more than one billion people.
In response to the findings, U.K. Health Secretary Matt Hancock told broadcasters, “I’m increasingly confident that we’re on track for the roadmap, because this data shows that the vaccine, after two doses, works just as effectively (against the variant found in India),” according to Reuters.
In a statement released along with a press release outlining the study’s findings, Hancock said, “We can now be confident that over 20 million people – more than 1 in 3 – have significant protection against this new variant, and that number is growing by the hundreds of thousands every single day as more and more people get that vital second dose.”
“This new evidence is groundbreaking – and proves just how valuable our COVID-19 vaccination programme is in protecting the people we love,” he added.
Meanwhile, Mary Ramsay, head of immunization at Public Health England, said in a statement, “We expect the vaccines to be even more effective at preventing hospitalisation and death, so it is vital to get both doses to gain maximum protection against all existing and emerging variants.”
The study on the Pfizer-BioNTech shot, one of multiple vaccines approved for use in the U.K., provides additional evidence of its effectiveness against several variants of COVID-19.
Two other studies published earlier this month indicated that the shot had a high efficacy rate at preventing both minor and severe cases of infection from the B.117 variant first identified in the U.K. and the B.1.351 strain first recorded in South Africa.