Pfizer Says Preliminary Study Shows Its Vaccine Is Effective Against British Strain Of COVID-19

Pfizer Says Preliminary Study Shows Its Vaccine Is Effective Against British Strain Of COVID-19

New research suggests that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine against COVID-19 may also protect against a mutation found in two highly contagious variants that appeared in Great Britain and South Africa.

These variants are generating concern globally. The two share a common mutation called N501Y, a slight alteration in one point of the spike protein that the virus covers. This change is believed to be the reason why it spreads so easily.

Most of the vaccines being developed around the world train the human body to recognize that spike protein and fight it. Pfizer partnered with researchers from the Department of Medicine at the University of Texas at Galveston to conduct laboratory tests to see if the mutation affected the ability of its vaccine to do its job.


They used blood samples from 20 people who received the vaccine from Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech during a long study of the injections. Antibodies from vaccine recipients successfully defended the virus in laboratory dishes, according to the study published Thursday night by a website for researchers.

The study is preliminary and has to be reviewed by experts, a key step in scientific rese arch.

But “it was a very reassuring finding that at least this mutation, which is one of the most worrying people, does not appear to be a problem” for the vaccine, said Dr. Philip Dormitzer, Pfizer’s chief scientific officer.

Viruses constantly undergo small changes as they spread from person to person. Scientists have used these small modifications to track the progress of the coronavirus around the world since it was first detected a year ago in China.

British scientists have said that the variant found in Britain, which has become dominant in parts of England, still appeared susceptible to vaccines. This mutation has already been detected in the United States and in many other countries.

But the variant discovered in South Africa has an additional mutation, called E484K. which is what worries scientists now.

The Pfizer study found that the vaccine appeared to work against 15 additional possible mutations of the virus, but E484K was not among those tested. According to Dormitzer, she is next on the list.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, America’s leading infectious disease expert, recently said that vaccines are designed to recognize multiple parts of the spike protein, so it is unlikely that a single mutation could be enough to block them. But scientists around the world are researching different vaccines to prove it.

Dormitzer pointed out that if the virus mutates enough that he has to modify the vaccine – just as the flu vaccine is adjusted almost every year – then modifying the recipe would not be difficult for his company’s vaccine and others like it. The vaccine is made with a part of the genetic code of the virus, easy to change, although it is not clear what kind of additional tests regulators will ask for to validate the change.

This is just the beginning “of ongoing monitoring of changes in the virus to see if any might have an impact on vaccine coverage,” Dormitzer said.