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Covid vaccines have been proven to work against the Indian coronavirus variant in "groundbreaking" test results that have renewed hope in the end of lockdown.
Fears over the jabs' effectiveness against the new strain had sparked concerns about whether the UK would be able to ease restrictions on June 21 as scheduled in the government's roadmap.
But Pfizer and AstraZeneca have both confirmed their vaccines offer significant protection after having both doses.
Tests revealed the Pfizer injections were a whopping 88% effective, with AstraZeneca at 60%.
And both vaccine makers said they were 33% effective against symptomatic disease from the Indian variant three weeks after the first dose. They were around 50% effective against the Kent strain.
The evidence was "quite clear" and going in the "right direction", according to Professor Susan Hopkins, PHE's Covid-19 strategic response director.
UK Health Security Agency CEO Dr Jenny Harries said the plans to end of lockdown on June 21 were "looking good".
Home Secretary Priti Patel supported Dr Harries' claim, adding: "The data is positive in terms of where we are – look at the vaccine information that has been published today about the level of protection against specific variants."
The emergence of the Indian mutation in the UK had cast doubt on the whether lockdown would end on June 21 as planned under Prime Minister Boris Johnson's roadmap.
While you can still catch coronavirus after having both vaccines, the study found they can significantly reduce symptoms, including a persistent cough, fever and the loss of taste and smell.
To date, about 22 million Brits have had both injections.
“These important data from PHE give us a first look at how the effectiveness of the two vaccines we have used the most so far holds up against the B1.617.2 variant that is beginning to circulate in the UK," said Professor Adam Finn, professor of paediatrics at the University of Bristol.
"Overall the results are encouraging in that the vaccines are continuing to provide useful protection.
"It is also important to appreciate that these results relate to symptomatic infection, most of which will have been mild.
"It remains the strong expectation that both vaccines will continue to provide a high level of protection against severe disease, especially after the second dose.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock added that the research was a “groundbreaking” development.
“We can now be confident that over 20 million people have significant protection against this variant," Hancock said.
However, Dr Mary Ramsay, PHE Head of Immunisation, warned that it was vital that Brits get both jobs to have "maximum protection" from all variants.
More than 50m vaccines have been delivered in England between December 8 last year and May 21, according to NHS England.
- Boris Johnson
- Covid vaccine
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