A picture taken on January 15, 2021 shows a pharmacist holding a vial of undiluted Pfizer BioNTech vaccine for Covid-19 with gloved hands, which is stored at -70 ° in a super freezer at Le Mans hospital in northwestern France became country runs a vaccination campaign to fight the spread of the novel coronavirus.
Jean-Francois Monier | AFP | Getty Images
LONDON – The coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer-BioNTech is likely as effective against a highly transmissible mutant strain of the virus discovered in the UK, according to a study by the two companies.
It was estimated that those listed as B.1.1.7. Well-known variant first appeared in the UK in September. It has an unusually high number of mutations and is associated with more efficient and faster transmission.
The characteristics of the variant had raised concerns about the effectiveness of Covid vaccines against them. However, studies published on the preprint server bioRxiv showed "no biologically significant difference in the neutralization activity" between the laboratory tests on B.1.1.7 and the original strain of the coronavirus.
The study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, found that all of the mutations associated with the newly discovered variant were neutralized by antibodies in the blood of 16 participants who had previously been given the vaccine.
Half of the participants were between 18 and 55 years old and the other half between 56 and 85 years old.
The study's authors warned that the rapid spread of Covid variants around the world required "continuous monitoring of the importance of changes to sustained protection from currently approved vaccines".
It is the first of its kind to be completed by a major Covid vaccine manufacturer. Other pharmaceutical companies are making efforts to test the effectiveness of their respective vaccinations.
Moderna and AstraZeneca, who worked with Oxford University to develop a Covid vaccine, expect their vaccines to be effective against B.1.1.7.
Earlier this month, Dr. Ugur Sahin, co-founder and CEO of BioNTech, told CNBC that the German pharmaceutical company is confident that its vaccine will develop an immune response against B.1.1.7.
Sahin said the vaccine should also prove effective against a variant discovered in South Africa – another highly transmittable mutation that is raising concerns.
His comments came shortly after initial tests showed that Pfizer-BioNTech's Covid-19 vaccine appeared to be effective against a key mutation in the more infectious variants of the virus discovered in the UK and South Africa. Now, scientists from both companies have published research indicating that the vaccine is likely to be effective against all mutations associated with B.1.1.7.
In recent weeks, optimism about the global roll out of Covid vaccines has been tempered by the resurgent rate of spread of the virus.
To date, more than 96.2 million people have contracted the coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University, with 2.05 million people dying.