pfizer sa variant

A Texas lab tested Pfizer vaccine against SA variant – Here are the findings

Published by Andile Sicetsha

South Africa is racing against time to kickstart the Covid-19 vaccine programme on schedule and on top of their list of vaccine replacements is Pfizer.

South Africa in desperate search for vaccine replacement

Dr Zweli Mkhize revealed, on Sunday evening, that every effort was being made to expedite the process of accepting large shipments of the US-made vaccine that uses mRNA technology to teach the body how to create antibodies and protect against the virus.

This comes after the country’s vaccine drive was dealt a huge blow when a new study showed that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine didn’t hold high efficacy levels for the Covid-19 variant currently spreading rapidly in South Africa.

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No dates have been communicated by the health department on when we should expect Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson doses to arrive on our shores.

With regards to the latter, renowned reporter and candidate of the J&J trials, Yusuf Abramjee, told Newzroom Afrika, on Monday evening, that the manufacturers have submitted an urgent application to have the vaccine approved by the South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA) for emergency use.

Pfizer vaccine was tested against SA variant: Here are the findings

From what we understand, the health regulatory body has not assessed an application from Pfizer as yet. According to ABC News, though, researchers in southeast Texas have been running tests on the efficacy of the Pfizer vaccine against a number of Covid-19 variants, including the one found in South Africa.

According to the report, researchers found that fewer neutralising antibodies were produced in the variant spreading in South Africa than the common mutation of the virus.

“It’s almost [a] three-fold reduction of neutralizing activity,” Dr Pei-Yong Shi from the University of Texas Medical Branch said.

Similar tests were conducted on the Moderna vaccine which also uses mRNA technology. According to Dr Hana El Sahly from Baylor College of Medicine, the results were, unfortunately, the same.

“We do know, from the lab, that many of these vaccines are not working as well against the South African variant,” she said.

With all this uncertainty surrounding the variant found in South Africa, vaccine experts are not discouraged by the setback.

“We do not know what the cut-off (is) that is needed in humans. We do know that they seem to protect against symptomatic disease, against severe disease, but the cut-off is not determined. I would call it very modest, and there’s a big cushion below that, that will still be very protected,” Shi added.