Pfizer vaccine may be effective against Brazil Covid variant, study suggests

9 March 2021, 17:16

The Pfizer vaccine may be effective against the coronavirus variant that emerged in Manaus, Brazil
The Pfizer vaccine may be effective against the coronavirus variant that emerged in Manaus, Brazil. Picture: PA

By Patrick Grafton-Green

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine may be effective against the Brazil coronavirus variant, a new study suggests.

So far six cases of the worrying strain, first identified in Manaus, have been found in the UK.

Laboratory research which tested the jab against an engineered version of the virus also found it generated an antibody response against the Kent and South Africa variants.

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All three strains carry mutations in the spike protein of the virus, which it uses to attach to human cells.

Researchers found levels of neutralising antibodies were generated against all of them, although this varied between variants.

The response was greatest against the original variant and against the more transmissible B117 Kent variant, according to a correspondence published in New England Journal Of Medicine.

It was slightly lower against the Brazil P1 variant and lower still against the South Africa B151 variant, the researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch and Pfizer found.

The tests used the blood of 15 people who had received two doses of the vaccine.

Dr Peter English, consultant in communicable disease control, said: "Reassuringly, while the levels were lower for the P1 and B151 variants, they were still substantial, and likely to indicate that the vaccine will be effective."

But he added: "Precisely how effective they are in the real world will require data on the vaccine's actual effect in populations, not just in laboratory studies such as this one."

Dr English, the former editor of vaccines in Practice Magazine and former chairman of the BMA Public Health Medicine Committee, said: "This study looked only at the neutralising antibody levels generated in the serum of people who had received two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine."

"Other aspects of the immune response, such as T-cell (cellular) immunity are likely to be important in real-world vaccine efficacy," he said.

He added: "In itself, this study does not provide any evidence about other vaccines.

"However, we know that other available vaccines use precisely the same antigen, albeit delivered in different ways.

"Given this, it is highly plausible that other vaccines will have similar efficacies against these variant strains but we do not know this for certain."