Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine. Photo by Christof STACHE / AFP.
Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine. Photo by Christof STACHE / AFP.

WHO confident Pfizer vaccine will work on Covid variant found in SA

By Rudolph Nkgadima Time of article published Feb 18, 2021

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THE World Health Organization says it is confident that the Pfizer vaccine will work against the 501Y.V2 Covid-19 variant found in South Africa and Kent variant found in the UK.

A laboratory study was published on Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, suggesting that the 501Y.V2 Covid-19 variant found in South African may reduce antibody protection from the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine by two-thirds, and it is not clear if the shot will be effective against the mutation.

Coordinator of the Immunization and Vaccine Development Programme at the WHO Regional office for Africa, Dr Richard Mihigo, said it is important to note that the T-cell responses against the new variant were still very high.

“The study shows that the level of neutralising antibody against the new variants found in South Africa and the UK were a bit weakened but the level of antibody response was still enough but as we know the response is not only looking at the neutralising antibody. The same study found that the T-cell responses against the new variant were still very high,” he said.

The study found the vaccine was still able to neutralise the virus and there is not yet evidence from trials in people that the variant reduces vaccine protection, the companies said.

SA says it has secured 20 million doses from Pfizer, with deliveries starting in the second quarter. It also expects to receive 117 000 Pfizer shots in the first quarter from the Covax facility co-led by the World Health Organization.

According to a Reuters report, South African scientists would meet on Thursday to discuss a laboratory study that suggests the dominant local coronavirus variant may reduce antibody protection from the Pfizer vaccine by two-thirds.

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