Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine should ward off South Africa strain, study shows

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Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine provides protection against the highly contagious variant of the virus that emerged in South Africa, a new study shows.

People who received the Pfizer shots had higher levels of antibodies capable of neutralizing the strain than those found in patients who contracted the bug, New York University researchers found.

But the concentrations of antibodies that the vaccine produced for the South African variant were smaller than those generated for other variants, which “could render some individuals less well protected,” according to the study published Sunday.

Despite that caveat, “the findings suggest that the protection provided by vaccination will remain largely intact against the South Africa variant and other currently circulating SARS-CoV-2 variants,” the team led by microbiologist Nathaniel Landau wrote in the paper.

The study, which has not been peer-reviewed, echoes previous findings from Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech. The companies released results last month from studies showing that their vaccine could ward off the variants first identified in South Africa and the UK, which have been spreading around the world.

Moderna similarly announced in January that its COVID vaccine — which like Pfizer’s uses genetic material called messenger RNA — was effective against both strains but provided weaker protection against the South Africa variant.

Both Pfizer and Moderna have said they are examining whether an additional booster shot could help shore up the body’s defenses against the South Africa bug. The companies’ vaccines are currently being administered in two doses.

Pfizer shares were down about 0.4 percent at $34.76 as of 12:25 p.m. Monday.

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