Public/Global Health

BioNTech says it will know vaccine’s effectiveness against new variant in two weeks

BioNTech is studying the new COVID-19 variant that emerged in South Africa and said it will know in two weeks if the vaccine it developed with Pfizer is effective against it, The Financial Times reported. 

The German company said it is testing the B.1.1.529 variant to determine if its vaccine would have to be reworked, noting the new variant “differs significantly from previously observed variants.”

“We expect more data from the laboratory tests in two weeks at the latest. These data will provide more information about whether B.1.1.529 could be an escape variant that may require an adjustment of our vaccine if the variant spreads globally,” a BioNTech spokesperson told Reuters.

Pfizer and BioNTech put plans in place months ago to be able to adapt the vaccine in 6 weeks and ship a new version of their shot within 100 days if necessary, the spokeswoman added.

BioNTech did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment.

The new variant was detected in South Africa and a number of countries moved quickly on Friday to restrict travel from southern Africa.

Scientists have been trying to understand the variant, and whether it can evade immune responses triggered by vaccines.

The new variant has been described by U.K. health officials as the “most significant” variant identified yet, citing more mutations in the spike protein of the virus. 

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