Covid variant from South Africa can ‘break through’ Pfizer vaccine

Covid variant from South Africa can 'break through' Pfizer vaccine

April 13, 2021: According to the new Israeli study, the coronavirus variant first discovered in South Africa can evade some of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine’s protection, according to a new Israeli study.

Researchers at Tel Aviv University and Clalit, the most significant healthcare organization in Israel, examined approximately 400 people positive for Covid-19 after taking at least one vaccine dose. They compared them to the people who were infected and not vaccinated.

The researchers found the prevalence of South Africa’s variant, named B.1.351, among people who took two doses of the vaccine was about eight times higher than those unvaccinated. The online data published over the weekend suggest the B.1.351 can “breakthrough” the vaccine’s protection than the original strain, the researchers said in the study.

“Based on patterns in the general population, we would have expected just one case of the variant from South Africa, but we saw eight,” Professor Adi Stern, head of the research, told The Times of Israel.

The new data came as public health officials grew concerned that highly contagious variants, which studies have shown can reduce vaccines’ effectiveness, could stall the world’s progress on the pandemic.

In December, Israel launched its national vaccination campaign, prioritizing people 60 and older, healthcare workers, and people with underlying health issues. By February, it led the world in vaccinations per capita, vaccinating millions of its citizens for the virus.

In January, Pfizer and the Israeli Ministry of Health entered into a collaboration agreement to monitor its vaccine’s real-world impact. The researchers noted the main caveat of the study was the sample size. B.1.351 made up only nearly 1% of all Covid-19 cases, they said. B.1.1.7, the variant identified in the U.K., is much more prevalent.

As variants spread, drug makers said they are testing if a third dose would offer protection. In February, Pfizer and BioNTech said they were testing the third dose of their Covid-19 vaccine to understand better the immune response against the virus’s new variants.

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