The vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE may offer some protection against a mutation in the new variants of coronavirus that have emerged in the UK and elsewhere.
This is according to a recent study by researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch and assisted by Pfizer/BioNTech.
The research comes as Covid-19 is spreading globally at record daily levels, likely accelerated by the new strains, and as countries begin to roll out their vaccines.
The new variants, which has been identified across several countries, are thought to be 57% to 70% more transmissible than earlier strains of the virus.
The result indicates the vaccine is likely to generate a protective immune response to new coronavirus variants carrying the so-called N501Y mutation in the virus’s spike protein.
The study has not been peer-reviewed and was only released ahead of publication and peer review.
Executives at BioNTech – as well as from Moderna Inc., the developer of a rival mRNA shot had earlier claimed their vaccines will protect against the new strains.
The result of the study by the University of Texas is one of the first to support those claims. The research examined the response to the mutant viruses in blood sera taken from 20 people vaccinated with the companies’ mRNA vaccine.
The researchers noted that the study didn’t cover other mutations in the spike protein. Yet, the findings were consistent with the response to a panel of 15 so-called pseudoviruses bearing spikes with other mutations found in circulating SARS-CoV-2 strains.
What they are saying
Phil Dormitzer, one of Pfizer’s top viral vaccine scientists, stated that:
- “We’ve now tested 16 different mutations, and none of them have really had any significant impact. That’s the good news. That doesn’t mean that the 17th won’t.”
Simon Clarke, an associate Professor in Cellular Microbiology at the University of Reading, said that:
- “While both variants had some new features in common, one has a ‘number additional mutations’ that included more extensive alterations to the spike protein.”
What you should know
- The researchers plan to run similar tests to see if the vaccine is effective against other mutations found in the UK and South African variants and hope to have more data within weeks.
- Scientists have suggested the changes could be made to Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna Inc vaccines to address new mutations of a virus in as little as six weeks.