Monday, September 25, 2023

The BioNTech / Pfizer vaccine deemed effective against the Covid-19 variant

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The Covid-19 vaccine developed by BioNTech and Pfizer is likely to be effective against a rapidly spreading strain of the virus that was first discovered in the UK, a laboratory study from the companies has shown.

The variant, known as B.1.1.7, has a high number of mutations, which has led to concerns that it may bypass the immune defenses created by vaccines being deployed around the world, much of which has been manufactured by BioNTech and Pfizer. .

However, researchers at BioNTech headquarters in Mainz found that a test tube version of the virus carrying all the mutations of the new strain was neutralized by antibodies in the blood of 16 patients who had received the vaccine in trials. previous ones, half of whom were over 55 years old. old.

In one paper which has not yet been peer reviewed, the companies said there was “no biologically significant difference in neutralizing activity” between the results of laboratory tests on the surrogate versions of the original strain of coronavirus, sequenced in China last January, and the newer a variant.

But the authors warned that “the continued evolution of Sars-Cov-2 required continued monitoring of the significance of the changes for maintaining protection by currently licensed vaccines.”

The test is the first of its kind to be performed by a major vaccine maker, as companies rush to verify their vaccines are resistant to the new variant.

Pfizer and researchers at the University of Texas had previously compared it to one of the more disturbing changes in the new variant that has appeared in the UK and South Africa, in a lab study published earlier this month. this.

Moderna and Oxford / AstraZeneca, who are both in the process of testing their vaccines, have previously said they expect their injections to protect against B.1.1.7.

But a group of scientists in South Africa warned vaccines might be less effective against the 501Y.V2 strain which is causing a second wave of Covid-19 infections there because it has an additional mutation in a key piece of the protein spike that the virus uses to enter human cells.

A serum study of 44 South Africans, who had previously been infected with earlier versions of the Sars CoV-2 virus, found that 90% were not fully protected against the new variant – and the antibodies in about half of the sample were not at all protective.

Salim Abdool Karim, South African government’s chief adviser on Covid-19, said: “Vaccine antibodies are different and may or may not be affected. We do not yet have empirical evidence on the efficacy of vaccines against the 501Y.V2 variant. Studies are in progress. “

While vaccines still work well against current variants, vaccine manufacturers and regulators are starting to prepare for the virus mutate more.

If vaccines become significantly less effective, companies will have to adapt their formulations and manufacture new batches. Researchers at BioNTech said that unlike long-standing influenza vaccines, the point at which the vaccine would have to be altered to combat any new strain “has not been established for Covid-19 vaccines.”

Previously, BioNTech said it could modify its vaccine to fight a new strain in about six weeks. But it would be up to regulators to decide what evidence they need to be convinced that a modified product is safe and effective, and whether they will require further clinical trials.


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