New Covid 19 Variant, Threat To Prevailing Vaccine


  • The coronavirus variant discovered in South Africa can “break through” the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine to some extent.
  • It is based on a real-world data study in Israel though its prevalence in the country is low and the research has not been peer-reviewed.
  • The South African variant, B.1.351, was found to make up about 1 per cent of all the COVID-19 cases across all the people studied.
  • The companies said on April 1 that their vaccine was around 91 per cent effective at preventing COVID-19.

A recent news article published in the ABC News reveals that South African variant of COVID-19 can ‘break through’ Pfizer vaccine, as per an Israeli study.

The data behind the study

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.

It matched age and gender, among other characteristics.

The South African variant, B.1.351

The South African variant, B.1.351, was found to make up about 1 per cent of all the COVID-19 cases across all the people studied, according to the study by Tel Aviv University and Israel’s largest healthcare provider, Clalit.

Outcome of the study

But among patients who had received two doses of the vaccine, the variant’s prevalence rate was eight times higher than those unvaccinated — 5.4 per cent versus 0.7 per cent.

Possible suggestions

“We found a disproportionately higher rate of the South African variant among people vaccinated with a second dose, compared to the unvaccinated group,” said Tel Aviv University’s Adi Stern.

This suggests the vaccine is less effective against the South African variant, compared with the original coronavirus and a variant first identified in Britain that has come to comprise nearly all COVID-19 cases in Israel, the researchers said.

A word of caution from researchers

The researchers cautioned, though, that the study only had a small sample size of people infected with the South African variant because of its rarity in Israel.

They also said the research was not intended to deduce overall vaccine effectiveness against any variant.

Since it only looked at people who had already tested positive for COVID-19, not at overall infection rates.

Response from the companies

Pfizer and BioNTech could not be immediately reached for comment outside business hours.

The companies said on April 1 that their vaccine was around 91 per cent effective at preventing COVID-19, citing updated trial data that included participants inoculated for up to six months.

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.

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Source : ABC


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