Israeli study reveals South African variant may evade Pfizer vaccine
Almost 53% of Israel's 9.3 million population has received both Pfizer doses, and has largely reopened its economy in recent weeks
The study, released on Saturday, compared almost 400 people who had tested positive for Covid-19, 14 days or more after they received one or two doses of the vaccine, against the same number of unvaccinated patients with the disease.
Pfizer and BioNTech said on April 1 that their vaccine was around 91% effective at preventing Covid-19, citing updated trial data that included participants inoculated for up to six months.They have been testing a third dose of their shot as a booster, and have said they could modify the shot to specifically address new variants if needed. In respect to the South African variant, they said that among a group of 800 study volunteers in South Africa, where B.1.351 is widespread, there were nine cases of Covid-19, all of which occurred among participants who got the placebo. Of those nine cases, six were among individuals infected with the South African variant. Some previous studies have indicated that the Pfizer/BioNTech shot was less potent against the B.1.351 variant than against other variants of the coronavirus, but still offered a robust defence. While the results of the study may cause concern, the low prevalence of the South African strain was encouraging, according to Tel Aviv University's Stern. "Even if the South African variant does break through the vaccine's protection, it has not spread widely through the population," said Stern, adding that the British variant may be "blocking" the spread of the South African strain. Almost 53% of Israel's 9.3 million population has received both Pfizer doses. Israel has largely reopened its economy in recent weeks while the pandemic appears to be receding, with infection rates, severe illness and hospitalizations dropping sharply. About a third of Israelis are below the age of 16, which means they are still not eligible for the shot.