A new study shows that Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine can protect against a mutation found in two highly contagious variants of the coronavirus that broke out in Britain and South Africa.
These options are of global concern. They both share a common mutation called N501Y, a slight one-way change in the protein that covers the virus. This change is thought to be the reason they can spread so easily.
Most of the vaccines that are distributed around the world train the body to recognize this protein jump and fight it. Pfizer teamed up with researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston for laboratory tests to see if the mutation affected the vaccine̵
They used blood samples from 20 people who received the vaccine, made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, during a large study of the photos. According to the study, antibodies from these vaccine recipients successfully repel the virus in laboratory dishes. posted late Thursday on an online site for researchers.
The study is preliminary and has not yet been reviewed by experts, a key step for medical research.
But “it was very reassuring to find that at least this mutation, which is one of the ones that people are most concerned about, doesn’t seem to be a problem” for the vaccine, said Pfizer’s chief scientific officer Dr. Philip Dormitzer.
Viruses are constantly undergoing minor changes as they spread from person to person. Scientists have used these minor modifications to track how the coronavirus has moved around the world since it was first discovered in China about a year ago.
British scientists say the variant found in the United Kingdom – which has become the dominant type in some parts of England – still appears to be susceptible to vaccines. This mutant is now found in the United States and many other countries.
But the variant, first discovered in South Africa, has an additional mutation that has scientists on the brink, one called E484K.
The Pfizer study found that the vaccine appeared to work against 15 additional possible viral mutations, but E484K was not among those tested. Dormitzer said he was next on the list.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the best infectious disease expert in the United States, recently said that vaccines are designed to recognize many parts of the thorn protein, making it unlikely that a single mutation would be enough to block them. But scientists around the world are conducting research with different vaccines to find out.
Dormitzer said that if the virus eventually mutated enough that the vaccine needed to be corrected – similar to the fact that flu vaccines are adjusted most years – – changing the prescription would not be difficult to shoot his company and the like. The vaccine is made with a piece of the genetic code of the virus that is easy to switch, although it is not clear what kind of additional testing regulators will be needed to make such a change.
Dormitzer said this was just the beginning of “ongoing monitoring of viral changes to see if any of them could affect vaccine coverage.”
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