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Study finds South African COVID variant can sicken vaccinated patients

An Israel-based study looked at 400 Pfizer vaccinated individuals compared to unvaccinated and found the South African variant more prevalent in those who had received the vaccine.

Updated: April 12, 2021 - 11:07pm

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Results from a Tel Aviv University study found that a South African variant of the coronavirus can infect patients who are already vaccinated for COVID-19. The study focused on the Pfizer vaccine, and has not yet been peer-reviewed. 

The Israel-based study consisted of 400 Pfizer-vaccinated individuals who contracted COVID-19 compared to the same number of unvaccinated people who had also been infected. The B.1.351 variant – or South African variant – was found in 5.4 percent of the vaccinated group while only affecting 0.7 percent of the unvaccinated group, a dramatic eight times higher prevalence in the vaccinated population. 

"We found a disproportionately higher rate of the South African variant among people vaccinated with a second dose, compared to the unvaccinated group," said Adi Stern of Tel Aviv University. "This means that the South African variant is able, to some extent, to break through the vaccine’s protection."

As reportedly the first COVID-19 variant study based on real-world data, Stern was surprised and disappointed with the results.

"Based on patterns in the general population, we would have expected just one case of the South African variant, but we saw eight," Stern told the Times of Israel. "Obviously, this result didn’t make me happy," he added. "Even if the South African variant does break through the vaccine’s protection, it has not spread widely through the population."

The South African variant has accounted for just one percent of all coronavirus cases in Israel, according to AFP. Stern said the findings emphasize the need for continued monitoring in order to contain the spread. 

Though the report states the Pfizer vaccine is highly protective, it does not offer the same amount of protection against the South African variant. 

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