The Pfizer / BioNTech coronavirus vaccine “is effective” against the new mutated Covid variants, a large study found.
According to a laboratory study by the US drug company, the vaccine appeared to work against a key mutation in the highly transmissible new variants of the coronavirus discovered in the UK and South Africa.
The encouraging news will be a relief for many in the UK as the number of deaths and deaths from Covid is fueled by the highly contagious new variant.
Scientists had expressed doubts as to whether vaccines would protect against new variants, especially the one widely used in South Africa.
The not-yet-peer-reviewed study by Pfizer and scientists from the University of Texas Medical Department showed that the vaccine was effective in neutralizing the virus with what is known as the N501Y mutation in the spike protein.
The mutation could be responsible for greater transmissibility, and there have been concerns that the virus may also be caused by the
Vaccine, said Phil Dormitzer, one of Pfizer’s top viral vaccine scientists.
The study was carried out on blood drawn from people who had been given the vaccine.
Results are limited as not all of the mutations found in any of the new variants of the fast-spreading virus are examined.
Dormitzer said it was encouraging that the vaccine appeared to be effective against the mutation, as well as 15 other mutations that the company previously tested against.
“We’ve now tested 16 different mutations, none of which had any really significant effects. That’s the good news,” he said.
“That doesn’t mean the 17th won’t be.”
Dormitzer noted that another mutation found in the South African variant, the E484K mutation, is also affected.
The researchers plan to run similar tests to see if the vaccine is effective against other mutations in the UK and South Africa, and hope to have more data within weeks.
Scientists have raised concerns that the introduction of vaccines may not protect against the new variants, especially those that have surfaced in South Africa.
Simon Clarke, Associate Professor of Cell Microbiology at the University of Reading, said this week that while both variants share some new traits in common, the one found in South Africa has “a number of additional mutations” that involve more extensive changes to the top protein.
The Pfizer / BioNTech and Moderna Inc vaccines, which use synthetic messenger RNA technology, can be quickly adjusted if necessary to address new mutations in a virus.
Scientists have suggested the changes could be made in just six weeks.
Sir Simon Stevens, CEO of NHS England, warned there were only 39 days to go to the goal set by Boris Johnson of vaccinating the most vulnerable people in the country.
Speaking at a press conference on Downing Street Thursday, he said the vaccination program will see “tremendous acceleration” in the coming weeks to meet the goals.
“We’ll need a tremendous acceleration if we want to vaccinate more people in the next five weeks than we would normally vaccinate during a five-month winter flu program,” he said.
He added that the “bulk” of vaccinations will be given in general practitioners’ practices and pharmacies, but that the number of hospital centers and large vaccination centers will also be increasing.
Earlier this week it was reported that within a few days an additional million shocks would reach vaccination centers, including two million Pfizer shocks originally withheld for the second dose.
The pressured prime minister has assured the nation that every aspect of the program – on the part of the government – is working “at full speed”, with a quarter of those over 80 already suffering.
The industry watchdogs, however, are questioning why the process is turning out to be much slower than originally forecast, with fingers locked on # 10 and the pharmaceutical suppliers.
According to The Times, more than four million doses of the Pfizer Biotech vaccine have been dispensed and reviewed by the MHRA.
Last week the government changed their vaccination strategy by moving the gap between doses from three weeks to three months to see more people get their first bump faster.
With the Prime Minister placing England on a third national lockdown and the mutant tribe rapidly spreading, time is of the essence to vaccinate and reopen the nation.