The Pfizer coronavirus vaccine is 88% effective against the Indian variant after two doses, a study by Public Health England (PHE) has found.
Both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca jabs were found to be almost as effective against symptomatic disease from the B1617.2 strain as they are against the Kent variant after the second dose.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock described the outcome as “groundbreaking”, while PHE said it expects to see even higher levels of effectiveness against hospital admission and death.
The study, which took place between April 5 to May 16, found that the Pfizer vaccine was 88% effective against symptomatic disease from the Indian variant two weeks after the second dose, compared to 93% effectiveness against the Kent strain.
Meanwhile, the AstraZeneca jab was 60% effective, compared to 66% against the Kent variant over the same period.
Both vaccines were 33% effective against symptomatic disease from the Indian variant three weeks after the first dose, compared to around 50% against the Kent strain.
The difference in effectiveness between the two vaccines could be due to the rollout of second doses of AstraZeneca taking place after the Pfizer jab, PHE said.
Data also shows it takes longer for the AstraZeneca jab to reach maximum effectiveness.
The study included data for all age groups from April 5 to cover the period since the Indian variant emerged.
It also included 1,054 people who were found to have the strain through genomic sequencing and covered “several” ethnicities, PHE said.
Mr Hancock said: “This new evidence is groundbreaking – and proves just how valuable our Covid-19 vaccination programme is in protecting the people we love.
“We can now be confident that over 20 million people – more than one in three – 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.”
Dr Mary Ramsay, head of immunisation at PHE, added: “This study provides reassurance that two doses of either vaccine offer high levels of protection against symptomatic disease from the B1617.2 variant.
“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.”
Separate analysis by PHE indicates that the vaccination programme has so far prevented 13,000 deaths and around 39,100 hospital admissions in older people in England, up to May 9.