Pfizer Vaccine Doesn’t Stop South African COVID Strain

Pfizer offers free health checkups at a mall by andresmh is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Apart from nasty side effects and bad stories coming out about negative reactions, the worst that most people expect from a COVID vaccine is that it won’t end up working. 

But research coming out of Israel shows that not only does the Pfizer vaccine not work at stopping the South African variant of COVID, it might actually make you more likely to get that deadly type of the virus.

The clinical study out of Israel shows that the the South African variant can break through the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine. 

This is quite worrisome to Israel, in particular, since it has mainly used the Pfizer vaccine to protect its citizens from COVID.

Pfizer Sign II by Montgomery County Planning Commission is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The Study’s Surprising Conclusion

The study done by researchers at Tel Aviv University used tests from 150 Israeli citizens who tested positive for COVID even though they got the Pfizer vaccine before. 

They found that the South African strain was eight times higher than it was among those who hadn’t gotten any vaccine in the general population. This shows the power of the South African strain to bust through the vaccine’s defenses and infect people. 

The head of the research team Adi Stern expressed concern at the findings:

“Based on patterns in the general population, we would have expected just one case of the South African variant, but we saw eight. Obviously, this result didn’t make me happy,” Stern said. 

Tel Aviv researchers also teamed up with Israel’s largest health service provider Clalit to help assist in the study and the Clalit Director of Research Ron Balicer said the results were important and show just how much still has to be researched about the vaccines. 

“It is the first in the world to be based on real-world data, showing that the vaccine is less effective against the South African variant, compared to both the original virus and the British variant,” Balicer said.

“These preliminary findings necessitates close continued attention to the dissemination of this strain in Israel, emphasizing the need for epidemiological monitoring and systematic sequencing, in order to contain further spread of the South African variant in Israel,” he added.

Taking a Look at the Facts

The UK variant of COVID started spreading rapidly in Israel in January and makes up about 90% of their COVID cases at this point. Researchers who did the tests on the South African variant are optimistic, however, because they believe the stronger UK variant may have kept people away from catching the South African strain. 

“It is possible that the extensive spread of the British variant is blocking the spread of the South African variant. Because it spread so effectively, it basically didn’t allow the South African variant to spread — it won the competition,” Stern explained. 

Israel’s population is now more than half vaccinated, one of the highest rates in the world, and the rate of the virus is rapidly declining. 

Nonetheless, the study out of Tel Aviv University brings up some very concerning questions about just how effective the other vaccines will be to stopping different strains of COVID and also why it is that so few real-world tests have been done on strains and vaccines. 

It’s true that the vaccines have reportedly been invented in record time (despite years and years of time in which researchers have been paid to be prepared for exactly this kind of pandemic) but why is there so little testing and information available on how effective vaccines could be against the variants? If they don’t work then what’s the point in getting a vaccine for one strain and getting infected with another?