Pfizer and BioNTech have announced the publication of results showing that their COVID-19 vaccine is likely to be effective against the SARS-CoV-2 strain found in the UK.
The strain, also known as the B.1.1.7 lineage, was initially detected in the UK and it carries a large number of genetic changes, with over ten mutations located in the spike protein.
The new results found that antibodies in the blood of 16 patients who had been vaccinated with the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, also known as BNT162b2, were able to neutralise an in vitro version of the new variant.
“The preserved neutralisation of the pseudovirus bearing the UK strain spike by BNT162b2-immune sera [blood] makes it likely that COVID-19 caused by the UK virus variant will also be prevented by immunisation with BNT162b2,” the companies said in a statement.
Although the results have not yet been peer-reviewed, Pfizer and BioNTech said that they were ‘encouraged’ by the early study findings.
The companies also acknowledged the possibility of altering the vaccine strain to address virus variants in the future, adding that they are confident in the flexibility of BioNTech’s mRNA vaccine platform.
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was authorised for emergency use by the Medicines & Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in the UK in December.
Pfizer/BioNTech signed an agreement with the UK last July to supply 30 million doses of BNT162b2 upon its approval, which was further increased to 40 million in October.
As of 19 January, more than four million people in the UK have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, including more than half of those aged 80 years and over and more than half of all elderly care home residents.