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South African variant may evade protection from Pfizer vaccine: study

The coronavirus variant discovered in South Africa may evade the protection provided by Pfizer/BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine to some extent, a real-world data study found.

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, was found to make up about 1% 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.

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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% versus 0.7%.

This suggests the vaccine is less effective against the South African variant, compared with the original coronavirus and a variant first identified in Britain, the researchers said.

Pfizer declined to comment on the study.

Pfizer and BioNTech said on April 1 that their vaccine was around 91% effective at preventing COVID-19, citing updated trial data that included participants inoculated for up to six months.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was authorized by U.S. regulators in late December for people aged 16 and older.

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