Two new studies found the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine is highly successful in preventing infection and serious illness from more contagious COVID-19 variants. The real-world studies conducted in Qatar and Israel suggest the vaccine can prevent the worst outcomes, even in those over the age of 85.
According to The Hill, the first study examined the data on over 200,000 people in Qatar who received the 2-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and found an estimated 89.5% efficacy in preventing infection against the B.1.1.7 variant, first identified in the U.K. Against the B.1.351 variant first identified in South Africa, the vaccine was up to 75% effective in preventing infections.
The Pfizer-BioNTech drug proved to be 97.4% effective against preventing severe, critical, or fatal disease from both variants, according to The New York Times. That study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The second new study, published in The Lancet, measured more than 230,000 infections in Israel from Jan. 4-April 3 of this year. During that period, the B.1.1.7 mutation was the most dominant virus in the country, according to the Times. The evidence in this study was even more encouraging the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine would protect against the aggressive variants. Researchers at the Israeli Ministry of Health and Pfizer found inoculation was 95% effective at preventing infections, hospitalization, and death from the variants in people 16 years and older.
According to The Hill, the vaccine was 94% effective in blocking infection and severe illness in those 85 years and older, the most vulnerable group.
These findings came the same day Moderna, the other mRNA 2-dose drug authorized for use in the U.S., announced its booster shot showed positive immune response against the original virus as well as the B.1.351 variant.
"As we seek to defeat the ongoing pandemic, we remain committed to being proactive as the virus evolves," Moderna CEO Stephane Bancel said. "We are encouraged by these new data, which reinforce our confidence that our booster strategy should be protective against these newly detected variants."
The chief medical officer of BioNTech said people will probably need a third shot of its COVID-19 vaccine as immunity to the coronavirus wanes.
According to CNBC, Dr. Ozlem Tureci, the co-founder and chief medical officer of the pharmaceutical giant that developed the COVID-19 vaccine along with Pfizer, added she predicts people will also require annual coronavirus vaccines, as they do for protection against the seasonal flu. Tureci said this is because immunity will decrease over time and variants might emerge challenging the original versions of the vaccines.
"We see indications for this also in the induced, but also the natural immune response against SARS-CoV-2," she said, during an interview on CNBC's "The Exchange." "We see the waning of immune responses also in people who were just infected and therefore it's also expected with the vaccines."
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