Pfizer study suggests its vaccine is effective against coronavirus variant

Medical syringe is seen with Pfizer company logo displayed on a screen in the background in this illustration photo taken in Poland on November 16, 2020. (Photo by Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

According to an experiment conducted by US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, the new coronavirus vaccine jointly developed by the company and Germany’s Biontech is also effective against highly infectious new corona variants found in the United Kingdom and South Africa.

Although not peer-reviewed, the experiment showed the effect of neutralizing a virus with a mutation called “N501Y” in a peplomer that plays an important role in infecting human cells.

The N501Y mutation is on one spot of the spike protein that coats the virus. That change is believed to be the reason they can spread so easily.

Most of the vaccines being rolled out around the world train the body to recognize that spike protein and fight it. Pfizer teamed with researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston for laboratory tests to see if the mutation affected its vaccine’s ability to do so.

Phil Dormitzer, one of Pfizer’s virus vaccine researchers, points out that it is a reassuring finding that the vaccine appears to be effective against this mutation in addition to the 15 mutations that Pfizer has tested so far.

“We experimented with 16 different mutations and none showed significant impact. This is good news,” he said.

British scientists have said the variant found in the U.K. – which has become the dominant type in parts of England — still seemed to be susceptible to vaccines. That mutant has now been found in the U.S. and numerous other countries.

But the variant first discovered in South Africa has an additional mutation that has scientists on edge, one named E484K.

The Pfizer study found that the vaccine appeared to work against 15 additional possible virus mutations, but E484K wasn’t among those tested. Dormitzer said it is next on the list.

Story compiled with assistance from the Associated Press and Reuters

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