Both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca jabs were found to be almost as effective as they are against the Kent variant after the second dose but were only 33% effective three weeks after the first 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 and May 16, found the Pfizer vaccine was 88% effective against symptomatic disease from the Indian variant two weeks after the second dose, compared with 93% effectiveness against the Kent strain.
Meanwhile, the AstraZeneca jab was 60% effective, compared with 66% against the Kent variant over the same period.
New data from PHE shows there have been at least 2,889 cases of the Indian variant recorded in England from February 1 this year to May 18.
Of those, 104 cases resulted in a visit to a hospital emergency department, 31 required an overnight hospital admission and six resulted in a death.
Professor Susan Hopkins, PHE’s Covid-19 strategic response director, said the data trend was “quite clear” and was heading in the “right direction”.
PHE said the difference in the effectiveness between the vaccines may be due to the AstraZeneca second dose being rolled out later than the Pfizer vaccine.
Data also shows it takes longer for the AstraZeneca jab to reach maximum effectiveness.
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.”
Latest figures show more than 50 million doses of coronavirus vaccine have now been given in England.