Pfizer, Moderna vaccines 10 times less effective against virus variant in small study

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Both Pfizer's and Moderna's COVID-19 vaccines were at least 10 times less effective against a virus variant first found in South Africa in a small study conducted by researchers from Columbia University, Business Insider reported March 8. 

The percentage of neutralizing antibodies in Moderna's vaccine that protected against the variant, called B.1.351, was 12.4 times lower compared to the original virus strain and 10.3 times lower for Pfizer's vaccine, Business Insider reported.  

A mutation on the variant called E484K seemed to be a "major contributor" to the vaccines' lower efficacy, the researchers wrote in the study, which was accepted by Nature but has yet to be published. 

The researchers used real forms of the variant taken from people who had been infected with the virus, according to Business Insider. The variant is circulating in at least 20 U.S. states, and there have been 81 reported cases in the U.S. 

The researchers took blood samples from 10 people who received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine 28 days after their second dose and 12 samples from people who received two doses of the Moderna vaccine, 43 days after their second dose. They then compared how well the antibodies neutralized the original strain compared to the variant strain, Business Insider reported. 

The sample size for the study was small, and antibody response is only one aspect of the immune response, so it is still unknown how well the vaccines work against B.1.351 in a real-world setting. 

Both Moderna and Pfizer have said they are developing booster shots to tackle the variant. 

Read the full article here

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