JERUSALEM (Reuters) – The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is highly effective against the Delta variant of COVID-19, a Pfizer official in Israel said on Thursday.
First identified in India, Delta is becoming the globally dominant version of the coronavirus, according to the World Health Organization.
“The data we have today, accumulating from research we are conducting at the lab and including data from those places where the Indian variant, Delta, has replaced the British variant as the common variant, point to our vaccine being very effective, around 90%, in preventing the coronavirus disease, COVID-19,” Alon Rappaport, Pfizer’s medical director in Israel, told local broadcaster Army Radio.
A study by researchers from the University of Texas together with Pfizer and BioNtech and published this month in Nature found that antibodies elicited by the vaccine were still able to neutralize all tested variants, including Delta, albeit at reduced strength (https://go.nature.com/3xcPd9K).
“We continue to synthesize viruses in our labs and with collaborators as we see new variants emerge so we can conduct testing to obtain the most information we can about our vaccine’s impact on neutralisation of emerging strains,” a Pfizer spokesperson said in an email to Reuters.
Other recent studies have also suggested the vaccine is likely to provide high protection against the variant (https://bit.ly/3h3TtCa , https://bit.ly/3qmCDCM).
Israel, with one of the world’s most advanced vaccination campaigns largely based on the Pfizer-BioNTech shot, still lacks enough data to provide insight into vaccine effectiveness against the Delta variant, said Sharon Alroy-Preis, head of public health at Israel’s Health Ministry.
“We are collecting the data now. We are only now seeing the first cases of the Delta variant in Israel – about 200 of those – so we will know more soon,” she told reporters on Wednesday.
In Israel, more than half the 9.3 million population has received both Pfizer shots and a steep drop in cases has prompted most economic restrictions to be lifted.
But confirmed cases have risen in the past few days and health authorities have urged parents to vaccinate their 12-to 15-year-olds, who were made eligible this month.
Alroy-Preis said around 65% of Israel’s population was protected against COVID-19, either by vaccination or by recovering from the disease, a figure she said was still far from providing “herd immunity.”
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