UPDATED: Jan 08, 2021, 12:20 AM(IST)
Pfizer-BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine is effective against the new strains of COVID-19, found in the UK and South Africa, a laboratory study conducted by the US drugmaker confirmed on Friday.
A study was conducted by the pharmaceutical company Pfizer, in collaboration with scientists from the University of Texas Medical Branch. The results from the study indicated that the vaccine is effective and successful in neutralizes virus with the so-called N501Y mutation of the spike protein. However, the study has not yet been peer-reviewed.
Phil Dormitzer, Pfizer’s top viral vaccine scientist admitted there were concerns that the new variant, being more transmissible, could also make the virus escape antibody neutralization elicited by the vaccine. However, he also added that the vaccine appears to be effective against the present mutation, and 15 other mutations too that his company had earlier tested the vaccine against.
“So we’ve now tested 16 different mutations, and none of them have really had any significant impact. That’s the good news,” Dormitzer said. “That doesn’t mean that the 17th won’t.”
He also added that while it was encouraging to see the vaccine working against mutations, the findings of the study are limited as the researchers conducted the study does not look at the full set of mutations found in either of the new variants.
Dormitzer also assured that the team of researchers will be carrying out a similar study by running additional tests to see if the vaccine is effective against other variants, which have been found in the UK and South Africa.
As of now, concerns against the new variant of South Africa are on a high as scientists are not sure if the vaccines being rolled out are effective against the strain found in South Africa as it is being believed by scientists that while the variants found in the UK and South Africa almost similar, the latter “has a number additional mutations”.
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and the one from Moderna Inc, which use synthetic messenger RNA technology, can be quickly tweaked to address new mutations of a virus if necessary. Scientists have suggested the changes could be made in as little as six weeks.