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South African Variant Can 'Break Through' Pfizer Vaccine, Israeli Study Says | Reuters

South African Variant Can 'Break Through' Pfizer Vaccine, Israeli Study Says | Reuters | Virus World |

The coronavirus variant discovered in South Africa can "break through" Pfizer/BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine to some extent, a real-world data study in Israel found, though its prevalence in the country is low and the research has not been peer reviewed.  The study, released on Saturday, compared almost 400 people who had tested positive for COVID-19, 14 days or more after they received one or two doses of the vaccine, against the same number of unvaccinated patients with the disease. It matched age and gender, among other characteristics. The South African variant, B.1.351, was found to make up about 1% of all the COVID-19 cases across all the people studied, according to the study by Tel Aviv University and Israel’s largest healthcare provider, Clalit. But among patients who had received two doses of the vaccine, the variant’s prevalence rate was eight times higher than those unvaccinated - 5.4% versus 0.7%.  This suggests the vaccine is less effective against the South African variant, compared with the original coronavirus and a variant first identified in Britain that has come to comprise nearly all COVID-19 cases in Israel, the researchers said. “We found a disproportionately higher rate of the South African variant among people vaccinated with a second dose, compared to the unvaccinated group. This means that the South African variant is able, to some extent, to break through the vaccine’s protection,” said Tel Aviv University’s Adi Stern.


The researchers cautioned, though, that the study only had a small sample size of people infected with the South African variant because of its rarity in Israel. They also said the research was not intended to deduce overall vaccine effectiveness against any variant, since it only looked at people who had already tested positive for COVID-19, not at overall infection rates. Pfizer and BioNTech could not be immediately reached for comment outside business hours. The companies said on April 1 that their vaccine was around 91% effective at preventing COVID-19, citing updated trial data that included participants inoculated for up to six months. In respect to the South African variant, they said that among a group of 800 study volunteers in South Africa, where B.1.351 is widespread, there were nine cases of COVID-19, all of which occurred among participants who got the placebo. Of those nine cases, six were among individuals infected with the South African variant.


Some previous studies have indicated that the Pfizer/BioNTech shot was less potent against the B.1.351 variant than against other variants of the coronavirus, but still offered a robust defence.

While the results of the study may cause concern, the low prevalence of the South African strain was encouraging, according to Stern. “Even if the South African variant does break through the vaccine’s protection, it has not spread widely through the population,” said Stern, adding that the British variant may be “blocking” the spread of the South African strain. Almost 53% of Israel’s 9.3 million population has received both Pfizer doses. Israel has largely reopened its economy in recent weeks while the pandemic appears to be receding, with infection rates, severe illness and hospitalizations dropping sharply. About a third of Israelis are below the age of 16, which means they are still not eligible for the shot.


Findings available in medRxiv (April 9, 2021): 

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Virus World
Virus World provides a daily blog of the latest news in the Virology field and the COVID-19 pandemic. News on new antiviral drugs, vaccines, diagnostic tests, viral outbreaks, novel viruses and milestone discoveries are curated by expert virologists. Highlighted news include trending and most cited scientific articles in these fields with links to the original publications. Stay up-to-date with the most exciting discoveries in the virus world and the last therapies for COVID-19 without spending hours browsing news and scientific publications. Additional comments by experts on the topics are available in Linkedin (
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Cell-Based Coronavirus Assays for Evaluation of COVID-19 Antibodies, Vaccines, and Antivirals

Cell-Based Coronavirus Assays for Evaluation of COVID-19 Antibodies, Vaccines, and Antivirals | Virus World |

RetroVirox offers a menu of cell-based antiviral services to evaluate experimental therapies and vaccines against coronaviruses, including SARS-CoV-2. The company offers in vitro testing with SARS-CoV-2 pseudovirions and with  live SARS-CoV-2 viruses to evaluate entry inhibitors, neutralizing antibodies, and antivirals against the novel coronavirus causative agent of COVID-19. Multiple viral strains are available for testing, including the South Africa (B.1.351), Brazil (P.1), and the U.K. variant B.1.1.7. Pseudoviruses are coated with the viral spike (S) protein of SARS-CoV-2 to recapitulate the mode of entry of the novel coronavirus. The assay can be used for the following purposes:


  • To determine the neutralizing activity of therapeutic antibodies and antisera
  • To test experimental COVID-19 vaccines using antisera from inoculated animals or humans
  • To evaluate small-molecule and other entry inhibitors targeting the S viral protein, the ACE-2 viral receptor, or host proteases and other targets involved in SARS-CoV-2 viral entry


Assays with live replicating SARS-CoV-2, and milder forms of seasonal human coronaviruses (hCoV-OC43  and 229E) allow for the evaluation of inhibitors at all stages of the coronavirus life cycle. Additional Information about the coronavirus assays offered at RetroVirox is available here. Request additional information by email at

Andrrey Yatsenko's curator insight, December 26, 2020 1:15 PM
New  immunity  for  people in the  world to COVID -19 is  result of  evolution !!!
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F.D.A. Tells J.&J. to Throw Out 60 Million Doses Made at Troubled Plant - The New York Times

F.D.A. Tells J.&J. to Throw Out 60 Million Doses Made at Troubled Plant - The New York Times | Virus World |

The doses, produced at a Baltimore factory under federal review, could have been contaminated.  Federal regulators have told Johnson & Johnson that about 60 million doses of its coronavirus vaccine produced at a troubled Baltimore factory cannot be used because of possible contamination, according to people familiar with the situation. The Food and Drug Administration plans to allow about 10 million doses to be distributed in the United States or sent to other countries, but with a warning that regulators cannot guarantee that Emergent BioSolutions, the company that operates the plant, followed good manufacturing practices. The agency has not yet decided whether Emergent can reopen the factory, which has been closed for two months because of regulatory concerns, the people said. The Johnson & Johnson doses administered in the United States so far were manufactured at the firm’s plant in the Netherlands, not by Emergent. For weeks the F.D.A. has been trying to figure out what to do about at least 170 million doses of vaccine that were left in limbo after the discovery of a major production mishap involving two vaccines manufactured at the Baltimore factory.


More than 100 million doses of Johnson & Johnson and at least 70 million doses of AstraZeneca were put on hold after Emergent discovered in March that its workers had contaminated a batch of Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine with a key ingredient used to produce AstraZeneca’s. Federal officials then ordered the plant to pause production, stripped Emergent of its responsibility to produce AstraZeneca’s vaccine and instructed Johnson & Johnson to assert direct control over the manufacturing of its vaccine there. Johnson & Johnson’s vaccine was once considered a potential game-changer in the nation’s vaccine stock because it required only one shot and was particularly useful in vulnerable communities. But the federal government now has an ample supply of the vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna, the two other federally authorized vaccine developers, and no longer needs Johnson & Johnson’s supply. Still, the loss of 60 million Johnson & Johnson doses puts a dent in the Biden administration’s plan to distribute vaccines to other countries that are still in the grip of the pandemic. The administration had been counting on sharing doses of both Johnson & Johnson and AstraZeneca but had to delay its plan while the F.D.A. completed a review of the facility. After he arrived in Britain for the Group of 7 summit this week, President Biden announced he had found another source for donations. Pfizer-BioNTech has now agreed to sell his administration 500 million doses at cost for donation to low and lower-middle income countries over the next year. The World Health Organization estimates that 11 billion doses are needed globally to stamp out the epidemic.

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CDC Warns About Spike in RSV Cases Across South

CDC Warns About Spike in RSV Cases Across South | Virus World |

A common cold virus called respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is spreading across the South, causing an unusual wave of late spring disease, the US Centers for Disease Control and prevention said Thursday. The CDC issued a Health Advisory Network warning to doctors and other health care providers to be on alert for the virus, which can cause pneumonia, especially in very small children and babies. "Due to this increased activity, CDC encourages broader testing for RSV among patients presenting with acute respiratory illness who test negative for SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19," the CDC said in the alert. "RSV can be associated with severe disease in young children and older adults. This health advisory also serves as a reminder to healthcare personnel, childcare providers, and staff of long-term care facilities to avoid reporting to work while acutely ill -- even if they test negative for SARS-CoV-2."  RSV is spread like most other respiratory diseases -- by small droplets and on contaminated surfaces. "RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis and pneumonia in children under one year of age in the United States. Infants, young children, and older adults with chronic medical conditions are at risk of severe disease from RSV infection," the CDC said. 

"Each year in the United States, RSV leads to on average approximately 58,000 hospitalizations with 100-500 deaths among children younger than 5 years old and 177,000 hospitalizations with 14,000 deaths among adults aged 65 years or older."
RSV is one of the viruses seen more commonly in fall and winter, but incidence plummeted during the pandemic. "However, since late March, CDC has observed an increase in RSV detections reported to the National Respiratory and Enteric Virus Surveillance System (NREVSS), a nationwide passive, laboratory-based surveillance network," the CDC said.  Spread has been seen in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. "Due to reduced circulation of RSV during the winter months of 2020--2021, older infants and toddlers might now be at increased risk of severe RSV-associated illness since they have likely not had typical levels of exposure to RSV during the past 15 months," the CDC said. There's no specific treatment for the virus.
U.S. CDC surveillance data avaialable here:
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US Travel Restrictions: CDC Issues New Advice for More Than 120 Countries

US Travel Restrictions: CDC Issues New Advice for More Than 120 Countries | Virus World |

Another 33 countries moved into the CDC's lowest Covid-19 travel risk category on Monday.  As more people get vaccinated and the spread of Covid-19 becomes more controlled, public health officials are issuing new travel advice for more than 120 countries. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its international travel guidance on Monday to give specific advice for both vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers.  The update includes moving 33 countries, including Iceland, Israel and Singapore, into the lowest risk category. The CDC's Covid-19 revised Travel Health Notice guidelines seek to "better differentiate countries with severe outbreak situations" from countries in which Covid-19 is "sustained, but controlled." The CDC's threat levels are determined by the number of Covid-19 cases in a given country. At each level, the CDC recommends getting vaccinated, but its guidance for unvaccinated people varies by how severe the pandemic is in each country. The CDC recommends avoiding travel to countries at level 4, the highest threat level, which have more than 500 cases per 100,000 residents in the last 28 days. Level 4 countries include nations such as Brazil, India and Iraq. For countries at level 3, like Mexico, Russia, and Iran, the CDC recommends against nonessential travel for that those who are unvaccinated. These countries are currently reporting 100 to 500 cases per 100,000 residents.  At level 2, the agency recommends that unvaccinated travelers who are at severe risk for severe illness from Covid-19 should avoid visiting. These nations, like Finland, Cambodia and Kenya, are currently reporting 50-99 cases per 100,000. Finally, level 1 countries like Australia and New Zealand are considered the lowest risk destinations, and have reported less than 50 Covid-19 cases in the last 28 days. The CDC still recommends getting vaccinated before traveling to a low-risk location. See the CDC's Travel Health Notice here, and the CDC's interactive travel map here.

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CDC Study Finds Vaccinated People Have Milder Disease in Rare Breakthrough Infections

CDC Study Finds Vaccinated People Have Milder Disease in Rare Breakthrough Infections | Virus World |

People who have been vaccinated against coronavirus are more than 90% protected against infection and, if they do become infected, they have milder disease than unvaccinated people, a new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study shows.  The ongoing, real-life study also shows even partially vaccinated people are 81% less likely to become infected than unvaccinated people, the CDC team reported. The study of more than 3,900 health care staff, first responders and other frontline essential workers who have been tested weekly since December showed that so far 5% have tested positive for coronavirus. Only 16 of the 204 people who became infected had been vaccinated. The findings are reported in an online preprint on the medrxiv site and have not been peer-reviewed or published in a medical journal. “This adds to the growing body of real-world evidence of their effectiveness,” the CDC said in a statement.


“Findings from the extended timeframe of this study add to accumulating evidence that mRNA COVID-19 vaccines are effective and should prevent most infections — but that fully vaccinated people who still get COVID-19 are likely to have milder, shorter illness