The study compared nearly 400 people who had tested positive for Covid-19 – 14 days or more after receiving one or two doses of the vaccine – against the same number of unvaccinated patients with the virus.
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It matched age and gender, among other characteristics.
The South African variant – B.1.351 – was found to account for around one percent of all Covid-19 cases among all people studied, according to the study from Tel Aviv University and the largest provider of health care from Israel Clalit.
But among patients who received two doses of the vaccine, the prevalence rate of the variant was eight times higher than those unvaccinated – 5.4% versus 0.7%.
This suggests that the vaccine is less effective against the South African variant compared to the original coronavirus and a variant first identified in Britain which now accounts for almost all Covid-19 cases in Israel, said Researchers.
Adi Stern of 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 the protection of the vaccine. “
The researchers warned, however, that the study only included a small sample of people infected with the South African variant due to its rarity in Israel.
They also said the research was not aimed at inferring the vaccine’s overall effectiveness against a variant, as it only involved people who had previously tested positive for Covid-19, and not overall infection rates.
Pfizer declined to comment on the Israeli study.
Pfizer and BioNTech said their vaccine was around 91% effective in preventing Covid-19, citing updated trial data including participants vaccinated for up to six months.
They tested a third dose of their injection as a booster and said they could change 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 prevalent, there were nine cases of Covid-19, all of which occurred among participants who received the placebo.
Of these nine cases, six involved people infected with the South African variant.
Some previous studies indicated that Pfizer / BioNTech’s shot was less potent against the mutant variant than against other variants of the coronavirus, but still offered a robust defense.
While the study’s results may be concerning, the low prevalence of the South African strain was encouraging, according to Stern.
“Even though the South African variant crosses the protection of the vaccine, it has not spread widely in the population,” he said.
He added that the British variant could “block” the spread of the South African strain.
This is a record number of second doses of Covid vaccine delivered in the UK in just 24 hours.
Saturday saw 475,230 second injections given – along with 111,109 first doses – as Britain prepares to take its next steps to exit the lockdown.
This is the fourth day in a row that the number of second doses administered has exceeded 400,000, according to the latest government figures.
Meanwhile, a scientist has claimed the risk of two fully vaccinated people catching Covid from ending up indoors is “minimal.”
Professor Tim Spector, of King’s College London, said there was just a “one in 400,000 chance” of catching the virus indoors from someone else who has been vaccinated.
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Professor Spector told the Telegraph: “The Prime Minister recently told us that two people who have been fully vaccinated really should not meet because it is not 100% sure.
“I want to put the context a bit. It all depends on how much virus is in the country and currently with rates of one in 1,400 for someone who has been fully vaccinated, according to our data and trial data, this suggests they are at a 20th of the risk. normal, which means their risk is about one in 28,000.
“So if they come across someone with an equally low risk, the chances of them giving themselves are really tiny. “