The Borneo Post

S. African Covid variant better at bypassing Pfizer/BioNTech jab — Israeli study


The South African coronaviru­s variant is better at “breaking through” the defences of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine than other forms of the virus, Israeli experts said Sunday.

However, one of the authors told AFP that while the study showed the variant to be relatively successful in infecting vaccinated people, it did not provide any data on whether it could generate serious illness among vaccinees.

The study by Tel Aviv University and Clalit Health Services, Israel’s largest healthcare provider, compared 400 unvaccinat­ed people infected with Covid-19 to 400 partially or fully vaccinated people who also had the virus.

According to the study, published as a draft on Saturday and currently being peer reviewed, the South African variant accounted for less than one percent of coronaviru­s cases in Israel.

But, among the 150 people in the study who were fully vaccinated and had Covid-19, “the prevalence rate (of the South African variant) was eight times higher than the rate in the unvaccinat­ed (individual­s),” the study said.

“This means that the PfizerBioN­tech vaccine, though highly protective, probably does not provide the same level of protection against the South African (B.1.351) variant of the coronaviru­s,” the study added.

“The South African variant is able, to some extent, to break through the vaccine’s protection,” said professor Adi Stern of Tel Aviv University’s Shmunis School of Biomedicin­e and Cancer Research, one of the study’s authors.

Stern told AFP Sunday the study did not assess whether the fully vaccinated Israelis with the South African variant – eight people in total – developed serious illness.

“Since we found a very small number of vaccinees infected with B.1.351, it is statistica­lly meaningles­s to report disease outcomes,” he said.

Two studies published in February in the New England Journal of Medicine conducted by principal vaccine manufactur­ers Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna showed that the presence of antibodies after vaccinatio­n was less pronounced in people exposed to the South African variant, indicating diminished protection.

The Israeli study was the first real-world assessment of the South African variant’s ability to bypass a vaccine.

Israel’s vaccinatio­n campaign has seen 5.3 million people receive a first dose, while 4.9 million, or 53 percent of the population, have had two shots.

An earlier study by Clalit on 1.2 million Israelis found that the Pfizer/BioNTech jab gave 94 percent protection against Covid-19. — AFP

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