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COVID-19 vaccine developers respond to new strain

Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca suggest their respective vaccines should remain effective

As a new strain of the novel coronavirus takes hold in the UK, a number of vaccine developers have responded to the news with comments regarding the efficacy of their respective vaccines against the variant.

During a press conference, BioNTech chief executive officer Ugur Sahin – whose Pfizer-partnered vaccine has been approved in the US, UK and EU – said he’s ‘confident’ that the vaccine will continue to work against the new variant.

Sahin added that the company could also modify the vaccine if it fails to protect against the new strain, by updating small sections of the messenger RNA (mRNA) used within the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

“The beauty of the messenger RNA technology is that we can directly start to engineer a vaccine, which completely mimics this new mutation,” Sahin commented.

Meanwhile, Moderna told Bloomberg it expects that its mRNA-based vaccine is likely to be effective against the new strain. Moderna has already tested its vaccine against previous strains and expects that it 'would be protective against the variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus recently described in the UK'.

“We will be performing additional tests of the vaccine in the coming weeks to confirm this expectation,” the company added.

British pharma company AstraZeneca also told Reuters that its COVID-19 vaccine, AZD1222, should be effective against the new variant.

The company is also currently conducting studies to test the full impact of the mutation, which emerged in the UK and has since been detected in a number of additional countries.

“AZD1222 contains the genetic material of the SARS-CoV-2 virus spike protein, and the changes to the genetic code seen in this new viral strain do not appear to change the structure of the spike protein,” an AZ representative commented.

“Through vaccination with AZD1222, the body’s immune system is trained to recognise many different parts of the spike protein, so that it can eliminate the virus if it is later exposed,” the representative added.

According to the BBC, the new coronavirus variant was first detected by UK scientists in September. Around a quarter of the London COVID-19 cases that were reported in November were caused by the new strain.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said that this new variant could be up to 70% more transmissible, which could be increasing the R number by 0.4%.

The new variant has been detected across the UK – aside from Northern Ireland – and cases that have been confirmed in Denmark and Australia are also thought to have come from the UK.

Article by
Lucy Parsons

23rd December 2020

From: Research

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