Pfizer Study Suggests Vaccine Works Against Virus Variant

January 8, 2021by Lauran Neergaard, AP Medical Writer
Pfizer Study Suggests Vaccine Works Against Virus Variant
Syringes containing the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine sit in a tray in a vaccination room at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange, Calif., Thursday, Jan. 7, 2021. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

New research suggests that Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine can protect against a mutation found in two easier-to-spread variants of the coronavirus that erupted in Britain and South Africa.

Those variants are causing global concern. They carry multiple mutations but share one in common that’s believed to be the reason they are more contagious. Called N501Y, it is a slight alteration on one spot of the spike protein that coats the virus.

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.

They used blood samples from 20 people who received the vaccine, made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, during a large study of the shots. Antibodies from those vaccine recipients successfully fended off the virus in lab dishes, according to the study posted late Thursday on an online site for researchers.


The study is preliminary and has not yet been reviewed by experts, a key step for medical research.

But “it was a very reassuring finding that at least this mutation, which was one of the ones people are most concerned about, does not seem to be a problem” for the vaccine, said Pfizer chief scientific officer Dr. Philip Dormitzer.

A similar vaccine by Moderna is being rolled out in the U.S. and Europe, and on Friday was cleared in Britain. Moderna is doing similar testing to tell if its shot also works against the variants, as are makers of other types of COVID-19 vaccines.

But Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top U.S. infectious disease expert, recently told The Associated Press that vaccines are designed to recognize multiple parts of the spike protein, making it unlikely a single mutation could be enough to block them. Still, testing is needed to be sure.


Viruses constantly undergo minor changes as they spread from person to person. Scientists have used these slight modifications to track how the coronavirus has moved around the globe since it was first detected in China about a year ago.

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.

If the virus eventually mutates enough that the vaccine needs adjusting – much like flu shots are adjusted most years – that tweaking the recipe wouldn’t be difficult for his company’s shot and similar ones. Both the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines are made with a piece of the virus genetic code, simple to switch, although it’s not clear what kind of additional testing regulators would require to make such a change.

Dormitzer said this was only the beginning “of ongoing monitoring of virus changes to see if any of them might impact on vaccine coverage.”


____

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

A+
a-

In The News

Health

Voting

Health

Schools Struggle to Staff Up for Youth Mental Health Crisis

Mira Ugwuadu felt anxious and depressed when she returned to her high school in Cobb County, Georgia, last fall after... Read More

Mira Ugwuadu felt anxious and depressed when she returned to her high school in Cobb County, Georgia, last fall after months of remote learning, so she sought help. But her school counselor kept rescheduling their meetings because she had so many students to see. “I felt... Read More

November 17, 2022
by Dan McCue
FDA Conditionally Approves First Drug to Manage Acute Pancreatitis in Dogs

WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration has conditionally approved Panoquell-CA1 for the management of clinical signs associated with acute... Read More

WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration has conditionally approved Panoquell-CA1 for the management of clinical signs associated with acute onset of pancreatitis in dogs.  Panoquell-CA1 is an injectable drug intended for use while the dog is hospitalized for treatment of the disease.   Pancreatitis is a... Read More

November 15, 2022
by TWN Staff
Case Western Reserve University Awarded $7.3M for Eye Research

CLEVELAND — Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine has been awarded a five-year, $7.3 million grant from the National... Read More

CLEVELAND — Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine has been awarded a five-year, $7.3 million grant from the National Institutes of Health to identify new technology, methods and models to study the impact of inflammation and pain on the surface of the eye. “The cornea... Read More

November 15, 2022
by TWN Staff
Improved Eye Care Could Have Prevented Dementia Cases, Study Says

WASHINGTON — A study recently published in the journal JAMA Neurology suggests that as many as 100,000 U.S. dementia cases... Read More

WASHINGTON — A study recently published in the journal JAMA Neurology suggests that as many as 100,000 U.S. dementia cases could possibly have been prevented with improved eye care. The National Institute on Aging-funded research used data from a University of Michigan Health Retirement Study that... Read More

November 15, 2022
by Dan McCue
Google Pilot Testing Health Care Records Tool

Google is pilot testing the integration of its Google Care Studio search tool into the health records of two health... Read More

Google is pilot testing the integration of its Google Care Studio search tool into the health records of two health systems, one in Alabama and the other in Wisconsin. According to a recent JAMA Network Open study, poor access to the information clinicians need is leading... Read More

November 15, 2022
by Dan McCue
Report Finds Cancer Deaths Continue Downward Trend

WASHINGTON — The death rate from most cancers continued to decline over a four-year period extending from 2015 to 2019,... Read More

WASHINGTON — The death rate from most cancers continued to decline over a four-year period extending from 2015 to 2019, according to the latest Annual Report to the Nation on the State of Cancer from the National Institutes of Health. During roughly the same period, the... Read More

News From The Well
scroll top