South African COVID-19 Variant Elicits Weakened Response From Pfizer Vaccine
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How COVID-19 Variants Come About
Since viral particles frequently mutate, treating viral infections like COVID-19 is no simple task. Mutations can produce new variants that are more dangerous and, sometimes, can even render existing vaccines useless.
Viral mutations arise from random copying errors that alter the virus’s surface proteins or antigens. Antigens serve as markers for identification and also play an important role in vaccine development.
A new COVID-19 variant found in South Africa is one such example of this, and it looks like the Pfizer vaccine is significantly less effective against it.
What You Should Know About Covid-19 Vaccines and Variants
Viruses mutate over time, and since the start of this pandemic, we have recorded three virulent COVID-19 variants:
The South African variant (or B.1.351) was detected in October 2020, the lethal British variant (or B.1.1.7) was identified in December 2020, and the Brazilian variant (or P.1) was discovered in January 2021.
These variants possess unique characteristics that make them deadlier than your regular everyday COVID-19. For instance, the British variant spreads more quickly and poses an increased risk of death.
As of February 2021, there have been more than 205 million COVID-19 vaccines administered globally.
At least seven vaccines (3 platforms) have enrolled for WHO’s Emergency Use Lease. They include the Pfizer/BioNtech vaccine, AstraZeneca/Oxford, Serum Institute of India, Sinopharm/BIBP1, Sinovac, Moderna, CansinoBio, Jensen, and SKBio.
These vaccines are successfully being used in different parts of the world with the same goal: “To trigger the production of antibodies that can fight against the disease.”
Many of them contain an attenuated viral particle that prepares your immune system against any future COVID-19 encounter. See the video below on how vaccines work, and feel free to refer to our article about COVID-19 vaccines.
There are four types of COVID-19 vaccines: here’s how they work
Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance
The South African COVID-19 Variant and Its Impact on the Pfizer Vaccine
Since the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines release in the US, there has been a general reduction in COVID-19’s infection and mortality rate.
While this is noteworthy and worth celebrating, the virus is doing its best to find new ways to remain relevant in our world. It is mutating fast and creating antigens that are different from those used in the vaccine creation process.
As stated, this can reduce vaccine efficacy: A laboratory study conducted on the COVID-19 variant discovered in South Africa tested the virus against blood drawn from people who had already received a Pfizer shot.
The interaction between the viral particles and the patient’s blood produced a two-thirds reduction in the level of neutralizing antibodies.
That fact does not necessarily mean the Pfizer vaccine won’t work.
Since there is not enough information about the total concentration of viral species or antibodies required to actually fight the virus, it is unclear if/how the two-thirds reduction in the Pfizer vaccine’s potency affects viral immunity.
Most researchers and experts feel that we need more data on the vaccine’s possible activity against this new COVID-19 strain. The same can be said about the recently detected Brazilian variant, on which Pfizer/BioNTech is conducting more research.
- There are many targets on a virus that antibodies attack, so just because variations in a virus are evading some antibodies, others will mount a response.
- These mutant viruses cannot escape the T-cells of our immune system.
- Booster vaccines will serve an essential purpose in providing coverage for these new variants.
If you don’t believe me, then listen to Dr. Shane Crotty (video below).
Dr. Crotty is a professor at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology, Center for Infectious Disease and Vaccine Research. His most recent COVID-19 research was published in January of 2021, in Science, the world-renowned journal.
Coronavirus Mutations and COVID 19 Vaccine Implications with Shane Crotty, PhD (SARS CoV 2 Variants)
MedCram - Medical Lectures Explained CLEARLY
Top 3 Takeaways
1. Viruses mutate; that’s what they do. COVID-19 is no different.
2. At this point, we’re unsure exactly how the South African variant impacts the Pfizer vaccine’s effectiveness, but its antibody protection may be reduced by two-thirds. We need more research!
3. There is no way to stop COVID-19 from producing variants. Thus, we must reduce their spread. WE MUST CONTINUE TO BE VIGILANT AND STAY SAFE.
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