Pfizer COVID vaccine may be less effective against South African variant

BEER-SHEVA, Israel — COVID-19 variants and vaccines continue to dominate the news. Now, a new study reports the emerging South African variant of SARS-CoV-2 appears more resistant to Pfizer’s COVID vaccine. Researchers from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) say this strain is fighting back harder than previous virus versions.

“We saw a seven-fold decrease in the Pfizer vaccine’s ability to inhibit infection by the South African variant of the virus,” says principal investigator Dr. Ran Taube of the Shraga Segal Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Genetics in the Faculty of Health Sciences, in a university release.

The vaccine still worked against the South African [variant], but in a less-efficient way.”

Unfortunately, researchers believe scientists may have to create a modified version of the vaccine to address the South African variant. Such precautions may also be necessary for other mutations that pop up in the future.

Thankfully, the team finds the Pfizer shot is quite effective at neutralizing both the British and original COVID-19 strains.

Researchers analyzed the Pfizer vaccine’s effectiveness against the British (B.1.1.7), South African (B.1.351), and original COVID-19 strains. The team also assessed viral strains containing a combination of viral spike changes as well.

Furthermore, study authors looked into neutralizing antibody levels among individuals after receiving one or two doses. This led them to conclude that vaccinations provide “optimal protection” in comparison to antibody levels seen in recovered COVID patients.

Moving forward, researchers say they’re doing everything they can to test and analyze newly emerging variants and mutations as soon as possible.

The study is published in Cell Host & Microbe.

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