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Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

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People line up to get vaccinated at the Essa Academy school in Bolton, England, on May 15. Photo: Charlotte Tattersall/Getty Images

Two doses of the COVID-19 vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech or AstraZeneca are "highly effective" against variants first detected in India and the United Kingdom, health officials in England announced Saturday.

Why it matters: Some health experts have expressed concerns that contagious new variants could be more resistant against coronavirus vaccines, potentially prolonging the pandemic.

By the numbers: Public Health England, an executive agency of the U.K. Health Department, said in a statement Saturday that research conducted from April 5 to May 16 found that:

  • Two weeks after the second dose, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine was 88% effective against symptomatic disease from the B.1.617 variant first detected in India. It's 93% effective against the B.1.1.7 variant first found in England.
  • Two doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine were "60% effective against symptomatic disease from the B.1.617 variant compared to 66% effectiveness against the B.1.1.7 variant."
  • Both vaccines were 33% effective against symptomatic disease from B.1.617, three weeks after the first dose compared to roughly 50% effectiveness against the B.1.1.7 variant.

What they're saying: Public Health England said in the statement that "we expect to see even higher levels of effectiveness against hospitalization and death" in regards to these vaccines.

  • U.K. Health Secretary Matt Hancock said in the statement that due to this "groundbreaking" research gave officials confidence that those vaccinated against the coronavirus "have significant protection against this new variant."

The big picture: The World Health Organization has called the B.1.617 coronavirus mutation a "variant of concern."

  • Health experts expect this variant to soon become the "dominant strain" in the U.K., with Hancock reporting a surge in B.1.617 cases — describing the situation as a "race between the virus and the vaccine," per the Guardian.
  • German authorities have imposed a ban on most non-essential travel from the U.K. from Sunday to prevent the spread of new variants in the country.

Go deeper: The race to avoid a possible "monster" COVID variant

Go deeper

May 22, 2021 - World

Germany to ban most travel from U.K. as COVID variants spread

Photo: Chistof Stache/AFP via Getty Images

German authorities announced it will ban most non-essential travel from the United Kingdom starting Sunday to prevent the spread of new coronavirus variants.

The state of play: Germany classified Britain as "an area of variant of concern," saying that outbreaks are reemerging and more infectious variants, including the one dominant in India, have been detected.

Updated 14 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

  1. Health: Emergency room visits of all kinds dropped amid the pandemic — NY smart-thermometer network could predict next COVID wave.
  2. Vaccines: FDA clears 10 million J&J vaccine doses from contaminated Baltimore plant — Moderna asks FDA to expand COVID-19 vaccine authorization to adolescents.
  3. Cities: Seattle becomes first major city to get 70% fully vaccinated — Schools nationwide prepare for packed kindergartens this fall.
  4. Work: Goldman Sachs requires U.S. employees to report vaccination status.
  5. Politics: U.S. to buy 500 million Pfizer doses to share with the world — State Department eases travel advisories for dozens of countries.
  6. World: Moscow orders new restrictions amid surge in COVID-19 cases — 12 Venezuela players, staff contract COVID-19 before Copa America opener — 2021 already has a higher global coronavirus death toll than 2020.
  7. 🎧 Podcast: Back to normal without herd immunity.
  8. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.
May 22, 2021 - World

Nepal dissolves parliament as COVID-19 outbreak worsens

Nepalese President Bidya Devi Bhandari in 2017. Photo: LAKRUWAN WANNIARACHCHI/AFP via Getty Images

Nepal's president on Saturday dissolved the country's parliament and scheduled new general elections for November, Reuters reports.

Driving the news: Opposition leaders protested the move, saying that planning new elections should not be the government's focus while the country continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, the New York Times reports.

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