Results from a new study confirm that the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine works against the fast-spreading UK variant of SARS-CoV-2.
The study—published on the preprint server bioRxiv while awaiting peer review—is among the first to suggest that existing vaccines are not weakened by the UK variant, dubbed B.1.1.7, that has already hit the US.
Pfizer and BioNTech have previously reported that antibodies from people who received the vaccine, BNT162b2, effectively neutralized one of the key mutations (N501Y) in the UK variant, which also appears in another variant, first identified in South Africa (B.1.351).
In this new study, researchers from both companies created non-replicating pseudoviruses that featured the full set of B.1.1.7 spike mutations. Researchers then tested blood taken from 16 participants who had received BNT162b2 against the variant and found the vaccine could neutralize the variant as well as it could the earlier form of SARS-CoV-2.
“The preserved neutralization of pseudoviruses bearing the B.1.1.7 spike by BNT162b2-immune sera makes it very unlikely that the UK variant viruses will escape BNT162b2-mediated protection,” wrote study authors.
The study also notes that, unlike the influenza vaccine, “the reduction in neutralization that might indicate the need for a strain change has not been established for COVID-19 vaccines.”
One potential limitation to the study is the use of the non-replicating pseudovirus system, but previous research has shown concordance between pseudotype neutralization and SARS-CoV-2 neutralization assays, added authors.
“Additional experiments will confirm efficient neutralization of B.1.1.7 lineage clinical isolates. The ongoing evolution of SARS-CoV-2 necessitates continuous monitoring of the significance of changes for maintained protection by currently authorized vaccines,” concluded authors.