LONDON: Approved COVID-19 vaccines are effective against the Indian variant (B.1.617.2), a study by scientists at Oxford University has found.
“It looks like the Indian variant will be susceptible to the vaccine in the way that other (variants) are,” Prof. Sir John Bell, emeritus professor of medicine at Oxford, told Times Radio in the UK.
“The data looks rather promising. I think the vaccinated population are going to be fine. And we just need to pump our way through this.”
The study, led by Oxford’s Prof. Gavin Screaton, looked at two vaccines — Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca — and found that both create sufficient antibodies to neutralize the Indian variant in enough incidences to drastically reduce hospitalizations and fatalities.
It also found that B.1.617.2 is less resistant to vaccines than the South African variant, and is more similar to the Kent and Brazilian variants.
“If you do the lab experiment, which is you take plasma serum from someone who’s received the vaccine and you look to see its ability to neutralize the virus, that’s a highly effective way of telling whether you’re going to be protected or not,” Sir John said.
“It looks OK. It’s not perfect but it’s not catastrophically bad. There’s a slight reduction in the ability to neutralize the virus, but it’s not very great and certainly not as great as you see with the South African variant. It’s rather close to the Brazilian version where the vaccine serum seems to be very effective in neutralizing the virus,” he added.
“The antibodies you’ve made after you’ve had the vaccine, which are floating around in your blood, are good enough to neutralize the virus if you get it.”
But Sir John warned that the lack of vaccinations across Europe and elsewhere means the continent is more susceptible to variants, and the possibility remains that more could emerge due to a lack of immunization and increased transmission.
“There are very broad swathes of Europe that are largely unvaccinated. So they’re pretty vulnerable to new variants — be it Indian or otherwise — sweeping across the continent and leaving very, very high levels of disease,” he added.