Vaccine producers confident shots will work against new coronavirus strain
With coronavirus cases already surging, the highly contagious new strain is a cause for concern -- but companies behind COVID-19 vaccines are confident they'll still get the job done.
A variant strain of the coronavirus that's 70% more contagious is now in the U.S., according to officials in Colorado.
Pharma giants with vaccines on the ground believe the injections will still protect the public.
"You have to consider that even though nine amino acids are changed in this protein, 99%of the protein is not changed," said Ugar Sahin, CEO of BioNTech. "And we know that our vaccine induces immune responses against multiple regions of the protein, multiple t-cell responses and multiple antibody binding regions."
In a statement, Pearl River-based Pfizer also supported that, telling News 12 they tested the vaccine's "ability to neutralize multiple mutant strains. To date, we have found consistent coverage of all the strains tested."
The company also confirmed it's now generating data on how well the vaccine can neutralize the newest strain.
Moderna also released a statement about its vaccine, which uses the same mRNA Technology as Pfizer and BioNTech. The company says, "The broad range of potential neutralizing antibodies made possible by the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine provide confidence that our vaccine will also be effective at inducing neutralizing antibodies against them."
Full Pfizer statement about its COVID-19 vaccine and new virus strain:
"Since the emergence of the new coronavirus, SARS-CoV-2 in late 2019, experts have closely monitored and determined that there is more than one strain. Genetic mutations occur frequently during virus spread. They can occur every time genetic material is copied. When a virus replicates inside the cell it has infected, the myriad of new copies will have small differences. SARS-CoV-2 is an RNA virus, which means that its genetic material is encoded in RNA, not DNA like our genetic material. Inside a host cell, the virus makes its own replication machinery. RNA viruses have exceptionally high mutations rates because their replication enzymes are prone to errors when making new virus copies. The coronavirus replication enzymes are less prone to errors than those of viruses like influenza virus, but still quite prone to errors.
One of the reasons Pfizer and BioNTech chose to utilize a mRNA platform is because of the potential for the flexibility of the technology in comparison to traditional vaccine technologies. This flexibility includes the ability to alter the RNA sequence in the vaccine to cover new strains of the virus, if one ever were to emerge that is not well covered by the current vaccine. Pfizer and BioNTech have tested sera from people immunized with the BNT162b2 vaccine for its ability to neutralize multiple mutant strains. To date, we have found consistent coverage of all the strains tested. The two companies are now generating data on how well sera from people immunized with BNT162b2 may be able to neutralize the new strain from the UK."