Pfizer/BioNTech shot may beat new virus mutation, study finds

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine appears to work against an important mutation in the new coronavirus variants causing havoc in the UK and South Africa, according to research from the drugs giant.

Findings of the lab study posted online have not yet been peer reviewed but provide some reassurance for countries like the UK, which are relying on vaccines to bring the pandemic under control.

Pfizer joined with scientists from the University of Texas Medical Branch to conduct the study, which indicated the vaccine was effective at neutralising virus with the mutation known as N501Y.

The mutation is responsible for greater transmissibility and there have been concerns it may also allow the virus to dodge the immune response produced as a result of the vaccination.

The study team tested blood taken from people who had received the mRNA vaccine developed by BioNTech and Pfizer.

However, findings are limited because it does not look at all mutations found in the new variants of the virus.

Pfizer’s chief scientific officer Philip Dormitzer noted that the vaccine has been found to work against 15 other mutations that the company has previously tested against.

He told Reuters: “So we’ve now tested 16 different mutations and none of them have really had any significant impact. That’s the good news.”

However he warned that this “doesn’t mean that the 17th won’t (have an impact)”.

He is also concerned about another mutation found in the South African variant, called E484K.

Researchers plan to run similar tests to check if the vaccine works against this and other mutations found in the UK and South African variants.

The advantage of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is that it can be quickly tweaked to address any new mutations, and according to Reuters the changes could be made in as little as six weeks.

It’s not clear how the changes to the virus affect the rival vaccines developed by AstraZeneca/Oxford University and Moderna.

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