NEW YORK (Reuters) – The COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE was able to neutralize a new variant of the coronavirus that is rapidly spreading in Brazil, according to a laboratory study published Monday in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Blood drawn from people given the vaccine neutralized a engineered version of the virus that contained the same mutations found in the peak portion of the highly contagious variant P.1 first identified in Brazil, according to the Study conducted by scientists from companies and the University of Texas medical branch was found.
The scientists said that the neutralizing ability was roughly equivalent to the effect of the vaccine in an earlier, less contagious version of the virus from last year.
The spike, used by the virus to enter human cells, is the primary target of many COVID-19 vaccines.
In previously published studies, Pfizer had found that its vaccine neutralized other, more contagious variants first identified in the UK and South Africa, although the South African variant may reduce the protective antibodies elicited by the vaccine.
Pfizer has said that it believes its current vaccine is highly likely to still protect against the South African variant. However, the drugmaker plans to test a third booster dose of its vaccine, as well as a version specifically redesigned to combat the variant in order to better understand the immune response.
Reporting by Michael Erman; Edited by Bill Berkrot