Pfizer's vaccine DOES work against Brazilian covid variant, study says

Pfizer’s vaccine DOES work against the Brazilian coronavirus variant, study suggests: Second dose of the shot ‘neutralized’ the mutant virus in lab tests

  • Scientists tested antibodies in the blood of people who had two doses against an engineered variant 
  • They saw in the lab that the antibodies were able to ‘neutralize’ an infectious spike protein engineered to be have the same mutations as the Brazil variant 
  • It suggests that the 16.9 million Americans who have had two doses of the Pfizer shot will be protected
  • Pfizer’s shot also appears to work against the UK and South African variants 
  • The firm is still making a booster shot specific to variants, but it won’t likely be ready before the latter half of the year or early 2022  

The COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech was able to neutralize a new variant of the coronavirus spreading rapidly in Brazil, according to a laboratory study published in the New England Journal of Medicine on Monday.

Blood taken from people who had been given the vaccine neutralized an engineered version of the virus that contained the same mutations carried on the spike portion of the highly contagious P.1 variant first identified in Brazil, the study found. 

Scientists from Pfizer, its partner BioNTech and the University of Texas Medical Branch said the neutralizing ability was roughly equivalent the vaccine’s effect on a previous, less contagious version of the virus from last year.

It’s reason for a global sight of relief after early evidence suggested that vaccines were weakened by the new variant, as well as by another variant from South Africa. 

The spike, used by the virus to enter human cells, is the primary target of many COVID-19 vaccines.

The study found the neutralizing antibodies still binded sufficiently to the P1 variant (orange) that emerged in Brazil 

In previously published studies, Pfizer had found that its vaccine neutralized other more contagious variants first identified in the United Kingdom and South Africa, although the South African variant may reduce protective antibodies elicited by the vaccine.

Pfizer has said it believes its current vaccine is highly likely to still protect against the South African variant. 

However, the drugmaker is planning to test a third booster dose of their vaccine as well as a version retooled specifically to combat the variant in order to better understand the immune response. 

Moderna has already shipped its booster candidate to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for clinical trials to begin. 

Both Pfizer and Moderna have said they think their booster candidates could be ready to ship by late 2021 or early 2022. 

But the intervening months are a critical time for vaccine distribution – especially as states begin to reopen against expert advice.   

Public officials including CDC director Dr Rochelle Walensky and Dr Anthony Fauci are concerned that variants could lead to a fourth surge of COVID-19 cases in the US. 

There are now more than 3,000 cases of the more infectious B117 strain from the UK in 49 states and territories. 

South Africa’s B1351 variant has infected at least 81 people in 20 jurisdictions. 

And the Brazilian variant that reinfected people in the Amazonian city of Manaus has now been identified as the cause of 15 cases in nine states. 

Scientists are imminently concerned that the UK’s B117 variant is going to become dominant this month.  

‘That strain is increasing exponentially. It’s spiking up,’ Dr Celine Gounder, an infectious diseases specialist and epidemiologist at NYU Langone told CNN.  

His warnings come on the heels of a new report that revealed 10 US states have seen more than one in 500 of their residents die from COVID-19, a new report has revealed. 

However all three vaccines authorized in the US appear to be about equally effective  against the variant. 

That was more tenuous for the Brazilian and South African variants. 

And there were festering fears that vaccines would be rendered less effective against these mutants. 

So far, 46.8 million doses of Pfizer’s shot have been administered in the US. Nearly 16.9 million Americans have been fully vaccinated with both doses of the Pfizer vaccine. 

The new study is promising evidence that they’ll be protected against any variant that tries to infect them.  

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