Paris | The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine retains the vast majority of its efficacy against major mutations in the English and South African variants of the coronavirus, the two companies said in a statement on Thursday.
In vitro tests “have not shown the need for a new vaccine to deal with emerging variants,” according to the companies, which however stress that they “continue to monitor emerging variants and are ready to respond” if a of these mutations were resistant to the vaccine.
Pfizer and BioNTech are based on a study by researchers from the University of Texas and a Pfizer researcher, “supported” by the two firms and posted in prepublication (therefore not yet reviewed by other specialists) on the server specialized bioRxiv.
The authors compared the antibodies of twenty people vaccinated with two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine during clinical trials, to three mutations of the SARS-CoV-2 virus recreated in the laboratory and comprising the main mutations of the English and South African variants of the virus.
These mutations are located at the level of the spike protein of the coronavirus, the tip that is on its surface and allows it to attach to human cells to penetrate them, thus playing a key role in viral infection.
“The plasma of individuals vaccinated with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine neutralized all variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus tested,” the companies point out, even though the neutralization of the virus by the antibodies was “slightly lower” for the three mutations of the South African variant than for the three mutations of the English variant tested.
A previous study by South African researchers, pre-published last week, had already pointed to greater resistance of the South African variant, this time to antibodies from former COVID patients.
The two companies underline in their press release that they will continue their evaluations, in particular of the South African variant mutations, and continue to “monitor the efficacy of the vaccine throughout the world”, in the face of the emergence of new variants.
However, they reaffirm “believe that the flexibility of the messenger RNA vaccine (innovative technology on which their vaccine has been developed) is appropriate for developing new variants of the vaccine if necessary”.
The messenger RNA vaccines from BioNTech / Pfizer and the American laboratory Moderna, which have received marketing authorizations in several countries around the world, allow a priori a relatively rapid adaptation. The German laboratory BioNTech had already assured to have the technology to produce if necessary a vaccine against new variants in six weeks.