The Pfizer vaccine may be less effective in protecting against the South African coronavirus variant, a recent laboratory study from the University of Texas’ Medical Branch suggests.
The study showed that the South African mutation of Covid-19 may reduce antibody protection from the Pfizer vaccine — but fortunately, the shot was still able to neutralize the virus.
While the results indicate that the Pfizer vaccine may be less effective against the variant, there is not enough evidence to definitively state that the variant weakens vaccine protection.
Pfizer discusses updated vaccine, booster shots to fight variants
In light of the study’s results, recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine, a team of South African scientists will meet to discuss the findings.
Due to the prevalence of coronavirus mutations, Pfizer has already begun to discuss the possibility of producing an updated vaccine, or booster shots, specifically targeting the variants, with medical regulators.
The study, conducted at the University of Texas in collaboration with Pfizer, involved the creation of a coronavirus mutation that had the same features as the South African variant, or “B1351.”
Specifically, the engineered variant used in the study had the same mutation of the coronavirus’ spike portion, used by the virus to enter human cells, as the highly-contagious South African mutation.
Pfizer vaccine likely protects against severe disease, death from South African variant, despite decreased antibodies
In order to test the Pfizer vaccine’s efficacy against the variant, first discovered in South Africa, researchers tested their created virus against the blood of those who had been given the Pfizer vaccine.
The blood samples showed a reduction of virus-fighting antibodies when exposed to the South African variant, compared to the standard coronavirus.
The findings do not indicate that the Pfizer vaccine is entirely ineffective against the variant, however, as scientists are not sure about the exact number of antibodies required to protect against the virus or its variants.
In fact, Pei-Yong Shi, co-author of the study, posits that the antibodies present against the South African variant, although reduced, are enough to prevent serious disease and death.
Europe to receive 200 million additional doses of Pfizer shot
Pfizer and BioNTech have agreed to supply an additional 200 million doses of their coronavirus vaccine to the European Union, the companies announced on Wednesday.
This massive shipment will be sent in addition to the 300 million doses the pharmaceutical giant has already promised the EU in a previous agreement.
The EU is expected to receive all of the 200 million doses this year, with some 75 million arriving in the second quarter of the year.