South African Covid variant may cut Pfizer vaccine protection by two-thirds
A laboratory study suggests that the South African variant of the coronavirus may reduce antibody protection from the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine by two-thirds, and it is not clear if the shot will be effective against the mutation, the companies have said.
The study found the vaccine was still able to neutralise the virus and there is not yet evidence from trials in people that the variant reduces vaccine protection, the companies said.
Still, they are making investments and talking to regulators about developing an updated version of their mRNA vaccine, or a booster shot, if needed.South African scientists will meet on Thursday to discuss the study. “I do know that our scientists will be meeting to discuss it and they will advise the minister,” health department spokesman Popo Maja said. “We are not going to be releasing a statement until advised by our scientists. We will also be guided by the regulator.”
For the study, scientists from the companies and the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) developed an engineered virus that contained the same mutations carried on the spike portion of the highly contagious coronavirus variant first discovered in South Africa, known as B1351. The spike, used by the virus to enter human cells, is the primary target of many Covid-19 vaccines.
Researchers tested the engineered virus against blood taken from people who had been given the vaccine, and found a two-thirds reduction in the level of neutralising antibodies compared with its effect on the most common version of the virus prevalent in US trials