Effectiveness of the Pfizer vaccine questioned against the South African variant

According to an Israeli study, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is less effective in countering the South African variant of COVID-19.

A study carried out in Israel and made public this Sunday, 11 April by AFP, purports to show that the South African variant of the coronavirus would be more able to 'overcome' the defenses created by the Pfizer vaccine.

'The rate was eight times higher'

It was Tel Aviv University in partnership with Clalit, the country's main health insurance fund, which carried out this study. They compared 400 people, unvaccinated, who had already contracted the coronavirus and 400 other individuals who had also contracted COVID-19, but who had partially or totally received the Pfizer vaccine (the option mainly used in the country's vaccination campaign).

The study tends to show that among volunteers, 150 people having received the two doses of the vaccine, 'the prevalence rate (of the South African variant) was eight times higher than in unvaccinated people.' The study published this weekend and relayed by the AFP notes that:

This means that the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine, although extremely protective, probably does not offer the same level of protection against the South African variant of the coronavirus, [as it does against other forms of the virus].

However, this study has not yet been verified and validated by other researchers. It should therefore be taken with caution.

Can the South African variant 'outsmart' the vaccine?

This is the first time that a study has been conducted to assess the ability of the variant to 'cross the protection' of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine. Tel Aviv University professor and study co-author Adi Stern told AFP:

The South African variant is able, to a certain extent, to overcome the protection of the vaccine.

According to Ran Balicer, director of innovations at Clalit and one of the authors of the study, these results do not call into question the vaccination campaign of the German-American duo. On the contrary, they would help to find ways to better cope with variants.

Wearing the mask, maintaining health measures and vaccinating would 'very likely prevent variants of the virus, including South Africa, from spreading' despite its ability to thwart the vaccine, he told AFP.

As a reminder, 53% of Israelis, or 9.2 million inhabitants, received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine. According to a study of 1.2 million inhabitants, the vaccine is more than 94% effective.

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