More on the South African COVID Variant

April 12, 2021 9:40 a.m.

There is a new study out over the weekend from Israel suggesting that the so-called South African COVID variant is more able to breakthrough the Pfizer COVID vaccine than the original strain of the virus and other variants. The sample sizes are small and the numbers themselves have been reported in a confusing or incorrect way in a number of write-ups.

Here’s what the study found.

The study looked at the breakdowns of different strains of the virus among unvaccinated and vaccinated Israelis. Among the non-vaccinated, .7% of people had the South African variant. Among the fully vaccinated the number was 5.4%.

It’s important to understand that we’re talking about a vastly smaller number of infections among the vaccinated. But the percentage of South African variant cases in that smaller vaccinated group was significantly higher, about 8 times higher. The researchers analyzed 150 samples from people who came down with COVID after being fully vaccinated.

This suggests that the South African variant is more effective at evading the vaccine. But it doesn’t tell us how much more. The write-ups I saw also didn’t shed any light on whether those breakthrough South African variant cases were still generally mild as most post-vaccination cases have tended to be.

This finding seems at least broadly in line with laboratory tests which have shown blood from vaccinated individuals more effectively neutralizing the original strain of the virus. But this is the first real world test of the question.

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