The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine can neutralize scary variants of the coronavirus, the companies said Friday, basing their hopeful findings on lab experiments that used antibodies from participants in late-stage trials.
Scientists replicated a key mutation in the fast-spreading “U.K.” and “South Africa” strains. Serum from people who’d received the vaccine worked just as well on the mutation as it did on viruses without it.
“This indicates that the key N501Y mutation, which is found in the emerging U.K and South Africa variants, does not create resistance to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine-induced immune responses,” Pfizer said.
The vaccine developers said the experiment didn’t include the full suite of spike-protein mutations found in the new strains but its ability to neutralize the N501Y is indicative of its ability to attack a range of variants.
Genetic sequencing is detecting the scary mutations that swamped London and have reached many countries and U.S. states. Scientists do not believe the variants are more deadly, though the world can ill-afford any acceleration of the pandemic that killed over 4,000 people in the U.S. on Thursday alone.
Pfizer said even in the worst-case scenario, it believes its platform is flexible enough to make a more effective vaccine.
“If the virus mutates such that an update to the vaccine is required to continue to confer protection against COVID-19, we believe that the flexibility of BioNTech’s proprietary mRNA vaccine platform is well suited to enable an adjustment to the vaccine,” the company said.
The European Commission announced Friday that it secured 200 million additional doses of the Pfizer vaccine for use within the European Union, with an option to secure another 100 million.
The Food and Drug Administration said it believes the current vaccine is fine, but it is tracking the efficacy of certain tests, warning diagnostics that are triggered by the mutated genome may produce false results.
“While these efforts continue, we are working with authorized test developers and reviewing incoming data to ensure that health care providers and clinical staff can quickly and accurately diagnose patients infected with SARS-CoV-2, including those with emerging genetic variants,” FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn said.
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