THE mutant South African Covid variant can “break through” the Pfizer jab “to some extent”, a study has found.
The study 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 bug.
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The mutant South African Covid variant can ‘break through’ the Pfizer jab ‘to some extent’, a study has foundCredit: EPA
It matched age and gender, among other characteristics.
The South African variant – B.1.351 – was found to make up about one 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.
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 as opposed to 0.7 per cent.
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 now makes up nearly all the Covid-19 cases in Israel, the researchers said.
Adi Stern from Tel Aviv University said: “We found a disproportionately higher rate of the South African variant among people vaccinated with a second dose, compared to the unvaccinated group.
“This means that the South African variant is able, to some extent, to break through the vaccine’s protection.”
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.
Pfizer declined to comment on the Israeli study.
’91 PER CENT’
Pfizer and BioNTech have said 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.
They have been testing a third dose of their shot as a booster, and have said they could modify the shot to specifically address new variants if needed.
They said that among a group of 800 study volunteers in South Africa, where the mutant variant is widespread, there were nine cases of Covid-19, all of which occurred among participants who got the placebo.
Of those nine cases, six were among individuals infected with the South African variant.
Some previous studies have indicated that the Pfizer/BioNTech shot was less potent against the mutant variant than against other variants of the coronavirus, but still offered a robust defence.
While the results of the study may cause concern, the low prevalence of the South African strain was encouraging, according to Stern.
“Even if the South African variant does break through the vaccine’s protection, it has not spread widely through the population,” he said.
He added that the British variant may be “blocking” the spread of the South African strain.
It comes as a record-breaking number of Covid vaccine second doses were given in the UK in just 24 hours.
Saturday saw 475,230 second jabs administered – along with 111,109 first doses – just as Britain prepares to take its next steps out of lockdown.
It is the fourth day in a row the number of second doses administered has surpassed 400,000, according to the latest government figures.
Meanwhile, a scientist has claimed that the risk of two-fully vaccinated people catching Covid from meeting up inside is “tiny”.
Professor Tim Spector, from King’s College London, said there is just a “one in 400,000 chance” of catching the bug while indoors with someone else who has been vaccinated.
Professor Spector told the Telegraph: “The Prime Minister recently told us that two people who have been fully vaccinated really shouldn’t meet because it wasn’t 100 per cent safe.
“I want to give it some context. It all depends on how much virus is around in the country and currently with rates of one in 1,400 for someone who has been fully vaccinated, according to our data and the trial data, it suggests they are at a 20th of the normal risk, which means their risk is about one in 28,000.
“So if they’re meeting someone with equally low risk the chance of those giving to each other are really absolutely tiny.”