Pfizer Covid vaccine DOES protect against super-contagious Covid strains including South African mutation, study finds

THE CORONAVIRUS vaccine offering from Pfizer/BioNTech will protect against the two new mutant variants of the virus spreading across the UK, research has revealed.

Experts carried out lab tests on the strains and found that the vaccine had levels of antibodies that worked against the variants.

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The variants have caused the virus to spread rapidly across the UK, resulting in a third national lockdown that officials claim will last until mid-February.

The variant, which emerged in Kent in September, is understood to be up to 74 per cent more infectious than the strain that was dominant last year.

The variant is called B.1.1.7 and is a version of the virus with 23 mutations, eight of which are in the spike protein the virus uses to bind to and in turn enter human cells.

The second variant was discovered in South Africa and is called 501.V2 – experts previously warned this variant would be able to a evade testing.

One of the main concerns regarding the new spread of the variants was whether or not vaccines would work to stop them.

Two vaccines are currently being rolled out to the most vulnerable in the UK – they are the Pfizer/BioNTech jab and the Oxford/AstraZeneca offering.

Pfizer/BioNTech, alongside researchers from the University of Texas have now revealed that their jab – which has to be given in two doses, will work against the new strains.

The experts took blood samples from 20 people who had received the coronavirus jab.

Lab results revealed that the samples had neutralising levels of antibodies which were able to work against the two new strains.

The study has not yet been peer reviewed and it is not yet clear whether or not the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine will also be able to fight the new strains.

One of Pfizer's top viral vaccine scientists, Phil Dormitzer said the vaccine works across a variety of variants.

He said: "So we've now tested 16 different mutations, and none of them have really had any significant impact.

"That's the good news. That doesn't mean that the 17th won't", he added.

He did however highlight that vaccines might need tweaking – similar to how the flu vaccine is altered each year.

Mr Dormitzer said the company would be able to tweak the vaccines and that this wouldn't be difficult.

One expert warned that more variants could be revealed as vaccines continue to be rolled out.

Prof Rowland Kao, Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies and Roslin Institute, University of Edinburgh said the fact the vaccine works on the new variant "does not of course mean that in future, new variants which do have a substantial impact on vaccine efficacy won't evolve."

He added: "The probability that this occurs will likely increase as we ramp up vaccine deployment due to the strong selection pressures this will place on the virus, with lessons from seasonal influenza and other viral diseases telling us that vaccine escape is something we must be ready for.

"Should this occur, the development of new vaccines to combat any new variants is likely to occur on a shorter timescale than the original development of Covid-19 vaccines; however there will be considerable logistical and epidemiological challenges nonetheless.

"Our best chance of preventing this occurring soon (which will place the greatest stress on our already stretched capacity) is with a vigorous and well-coordinated vaccine campaign now."


Experts say the vaccine can be tweaked easily as it uses RNA technology.

This means that changes to a vaccine can be made in as little as six weeks if new mutations appear.

It's common for viruses to adapt and change as they pass from person to person.

Attention will now be focused on finding out whether the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab will offer the same protection as the Pfizer/BioNTech offering.

This morning, British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said the vaccines might not work against the South Africa variant.

Speaking on LBC he said: "The South African variant is worrying the experts because it may be that the vaccine doesn't respond in the same way or doesn't work in quite the same way."

Earlier this week one expert said that the South African mutation could mean extensive alterations had to be made to the spike protein.

Simon Clarke, an associate professor in cellular microbiology at the University of Reading said the South African variant has a "number of different mutations", in comparison to the UK variant.

Sian Griffiths, who co-chaired the Hong Kong inquiry into the 2003 Sars outbreak added that other countries now needed to look at which variants were pushing their numbers up.

She told BBC Breakfast: "What we need to do is have these amazing scientific advances that we've made through the pandemic apply to making sure that vaccines do cover variants and therefore provide protection.

"So the good news this morning is that it appears that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine does protect against the South Africa strain, so people can rest assured that that particular strain isn't escaping the population."

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