Pfizer vaccine appears effective against rapidly spreading coronavirus variants

covid in germany

Coronavirus variants that have ripped through the UK and South Africa in the past month are being heavily scrutinized in laboratories around the world as scientists try to get a hold on how much of a threat the mutated strains pose. One of the chief concerns is that new variants may be able to evade current vaccines, including the two developed by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna currently being rolled out in the US. 

On Thursday, a Reuters report describing a new study showed Pfizer’s vaccine can effectively neutralize the variants with a mutation known as N501Y, which arose in variants found in South Africa and the UK variant, known as B.1.1.7, independently. The study is yet to be peer-reviewed but can be found on preprint depository bioRxiv. 

“It’s preliminary, but it definitely suggests that the vaccine will also work against these variants,” said Larisa Labzin, an immunologist at the University of Queensland. 

Coronaviruses mutate constantly as they pass from human to human and, for the most part, don’t significantly alter the virus. A handful of mutations, though, including those in the B.1.1.7 strain, appears to allow the virus to spread more quickly. These changes occur in the virus’s spike, a critical protein that allows the virus to enter and hijack human cells.

When news of B.1.1.7 being more transmissible first broke, there was reason to be cautious. The new data was initially provided by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in a UK press conference on Dec. 19. While scientists flagged their concern, it was too early to tell how the mutations may have changed the characteristics of the virus. Simply put, we needed more data. 

Importantly, the new variant does not appear to be more deadly, as Johnson noted in his presser. “There is no evidence the variant causes more severe illness or higher mortality, but it does appear to be passed on significantly more easily,” he said. However, scientists were unsettled by the potential for the variant to evade our current vaccines.

They’ve taken antibodies from people who have been immunized with the vaccine and checked to see if those antibodies can still stop the new variants, with a critical change in their spike protein  

But in the weeks since, the variant has appeared in numerous locations around the world, including the US and Australia, where it breached the hotel quarantine system and forced the city of Brisbane into an immediate three-day lockdown. The heightened concern has rippled across the globe and many nations have increased scrutiny at their borders or outright closed them to UK travelers. 

To test the capability of current vaccines against the new variants, Pfizer used blood serum from 20 individuals who had received the vaccine. This serum contains antibodies to the vaccine and can be tested against viruses with different mutations in the lab. The interim results look good.

“So we’ve now tested 16 different mutations and none of them have really had any significant impact. That’s the good news,” Phil Dormitzer, a viral vaccine scientist with Pfizer, told Reuters.

“That doesn’t mean that the 17th won’t.”

It will be critical to test other aspects of the immune response, Labzin said, like how specialized white blood cells respond to an infection with the variant after vaccination. Other mutations in the variants will also be examined.

“There are more mutations in the spike protein than just the one they tested in this variant, but it’s definitely positive news,” she said.

If the variants were to mutate in such a way they begin to diminish the efficacy of current vaccines, we don’t have to go all the way back to the drawing board. That’s thanks to the “plug-n-play” nature of Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines. These vaccines use mRNA and can potentially be “recoded” within a few months to combat new variants. However, while the technology allows for it, this has never been trialled before. 

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.

Source: https://www.cnet.com/news/pfizer-vaccine-appears-effective-against-rapidly-spreading-coronavirus-variants/

RSS Latest Press Release

  • The Mold Girl Ramps Up Annual Air Quality Testing Following High Demand
    Daniel Island, SC – Entrepreneur Elizabeth Keefer, aka The Mold Girl, is stepping up to meet demand from worried residents concerned about their homes being afflicted with significant health hazards.   Keefer, a well-respected council-certified indoor environmental professional, is now offering annual air quality testing for homeowners worried their homes could have mold, allergens, or other […]
  • Wendy's and Google Cloud partner to enhance the Wendy's restaurant experience
    Wendy's®  and Google Cloud today announced a partnership to enhance Wendy's restaurant experience and unlock new customer, restaurant, and employee experiences through data-driven insights.Wendy's intends to leverage Google Cloud's data analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and hybrid cloud tools to create new ways customers can order food in the drive-thru, on their mobile […]
  • Unique Custom Marine Vault Launches New Storage Boating Facility
    Pompano Beach, FL: A new 25,000 sqft boat storage warehouse has opened to offer the best complete boat care service in Florida’s Pompano Beach.   Owned and operated by Unique Custom Marine Vault, the unit is a safe and secure marine facility with an in-house mechanic and boat transporters.    “If you are looking for a […]
  • Dreamstime launches the "Cover of the Year 2021 in Romania" contest with prizes totaling 7,500 Euros.
    Dreamstime, the world’s largest stock photo community, together with Cărturești and PressOne, announces the launch of the "Cover of the Year 2021 in Romania" contest for book cover illustrations. Publishers or graphic artists who have published books with original covers throughout 2020 and 2021 are invited to participate. Participants can submit covers using stock media […]