Covid-19: Study Shows South African Variant Could Significantly Reduce Pfizer's Vaccine Protection

A recent laboratory study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), showed the Covid-19 South African variant, B.1.351, may reduce antibody protection from the Pfizer/BioNTech by two-third. 

Pfizer says South African COVID-19 variant could significantly reduce vaccine protection

Shown are the results of 50% plaque reduction neutralization testing (PRNT50) with the use of 20 samples obtained from 15 trial participants. Image source via

It is unclear whether the vaccine will be effective against the mutation, the companies said. 

The study, however, found that the vaccine still able to neutralise the virus and there is no evidence to show that trials in people with that variant, has reduced vaccine protection. 

The study was tested with 'engineered virus' against blood taken from people who had been given the vaccine. The results show a two-third reduction in the level of neutralising antibodies compared to the common version of the virus. 

It is important to note that there is yet a benchmark to determine what level of antibodies are needed to protect against the virus and also unclear whether that the two-third reduction will cause the vaccine to be ineffective against all other Covid-19 variants. 

However, UTMB professor and study co-author Pei-Yong Shi said he believes the Pfizer vaccine will likely be protective against the variant, reported in Reuters.

Both Moderna and Pfizer/BioN vaccine showed similar lower response caused by the South African variant in a laboratory setting. 

It will be interesting to see similar studies to be carried out on other vaccines available, namely AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, Sinovac and etc.   

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