Studies show Pfizer vaccine highly effective against COVID-19 variants

Two studies published Wednesday found that the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine was highly effective at preventing infection and severe cases of the virus caused by more infectious variants. 

The findings indicate that the two-dose inoculation, which has already been approved for emergency use and distributed in the U.S. and other countries, could also protect against more transmissible variants fueling new waves of the virus across the globe. 

One study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine and based on data from more than 200,000 people in Qatar who had received the Pfizer-BioNTech shot, found there was an estimated 89.5 percent effectiveness against any infection with the B.117 variant first identified in the United Kingdom.

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For the B.1.351 variant first identified in South Africa, the Qatar study recorded a 75 percent efficacy rate for the vaccine. 

The effectiveness was even higher for preventing more severe illnesses from the variants, at 97.4 percent for both the B.117 and B.1.351 strains. 

The second study, published in The Lancet, measured more than 230,000 COVID-19 infections in Israel from Jan. 24 to April 3. 

Researchers at the Israeli Ministry of Health and Pfizer found that the two-dose shot was about 95 percent effective at preventing infection, hospitalization and death as a result of the more infectious variants in individuals 16 and older. 

For people 85 and older, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine maintained a high efficacy rate of 94 percent in preventing infection and more severe cases. 

The findings came the same day Moderna reported early positive results among booster shots undergoing trials being developed to protect against variants of COVID-19. 

Pfizer has also been looking at the need for booster shots. Researchers hope the booster shots could give people who have already been vaccinated a greater immune response to variants.