COVID-19: Pfizer-BioNTech Vaccine Effective Against UK, South African Variants, Study Shows
German company BioNTech has on Friday said a not-yet peer reviewed study shows that its vaccine works against a key mutation in coronavirus variants uncovered in Britain and South Africa which experts have said is more contagious than normal coronavirus strains.
The German company which produced the vaccine in partnership with US group Pfizer said tests have shown that;
Antibodies from people who have received the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine effectively neutralise SARS-CoV-2 with a key mutation that is also found in two highly transmissible strains.
The B117 coronavirus, which emerged in southeast Britain late last year, has shown to be significantly more contagious—between 40-70 percent—than normal variants of the virus.
Pfizer/BioNTech’s coronavirus vaccine, which is being rolled out around the world, relies on the body’s production of a particular part of the virus—the spike protein—which the immune system then learns to kill.
Because the mutation in the British variant and another South African variant directly affects the virus’ spike protein, there had been fears that it would render the vaccine ineffective against the mutant versions.
However, BioNTech said the research carried out by Pfizer and the University of Texas Medical Branch “indicates that the key N501Y mutation, which is found in the emerging UK and South Africa variants, does not create resistance to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine induced immune responses”.
Authors of the study itself said however the findings were limited as the mutated variant tested “does not include the full set of spike mutations found on the rapidly spreading strains in the UK or South Africa”.
Phil Dormitzer, one of Pfizer’s top viral vaccine scientists said the mutation could be responsible for greater transmissibility and there had been concern it could also make the virus escape antibody neutralisation elicited by the vaccine.
Dormitzer stated that it was encouraging that the vaccine appears effective against the mutation, as well as 15 other mutations the company has previously tested against.
So 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.
The scientist noted another mutation found in the South African variant, called the E484K mutation, is also concerning.
They 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.
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and the one from Moderna Inc, 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.