Story at a glance
- A study conducted by Pfzier and University of Texas scientists suggests the company’s vaccine is effective against COVID-19 mutations.
- A variant reported in South Africa is particularly concerning.
As more states document cases of the new, more contagious COVID-19 variant, a study suggests that at least one of the COVID-19 vaccines is effective against the mutation.
Reuters reports that Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine is still effective at preventing a COVID-19 infection following a study conducted by the pharmaceutical company and scientists at the University of Texas Medical Branch.
Using blood samples from people who had received Pfizer’s vaccine, scientists tested the samples against exposure to 16 different COVID-19 protein mutations, including the newly transmissible one.
While the study hasn’t been peer reviewed yet, Pfizer scientist Phil Dormitzer said the instances of COVID-19 mutations being neutralized by antibodies stimulated by the vaccine is a good sign.
“So we’ve now tested 16 different mutations, and none of them have really had any significant impact. That’s the good news,” he says, noting other mutations could yield less optimistic results.
“That doesn’t mean that the 17th won’t,” he added.
The mutation of the COVID-19 spike protein making rounds globally is dubbed N501Y. The main change in the structure of the COVID-19 protein is found in its binding receptors — the structure that allows it to attach to cells inside the human body.
Another mutation on scientists’ radar is a variant that was first recorded in South Africa, subsequently named E484K.
The same scientists behind this study reportedly plan to investigate E484K further to ensure the vaccine holds efficacy when fighting against the new virus strain.
It is normal for viruses to mutate — hence the need to receive a new influenza shot each year, for example.
Both Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccines are made using messenger RNA, or mRNA. These mRNA vaccines rely on knowing the exact structure of the COVID-19 spike protein’s RNA, which are then used by human immune systems to produce antibodies that can identify and fight COVID-19 particles.