Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine appears to protect against South African, UK COVID variants

[A new] study showed the immunity conferred by the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine could block a version of the virus that contained one key mutation among the ensemble of changes found in both the U.K. and South Africa variants.

The study is the leading edge of what is likely to be a flood of research that will help clarify whether the vaccines that have been authorized — and those still in the pipeline — could protect against the variants. To do those experiments, scientists take blood serum from immunized people and test whether their antibodies are still effective at blocking either the variant virus or pseudoviruses engineered to contain the same mutations.

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The results show that the serum from 20 patients who had received the Pfizer-BioNTech was just as good at neutralizing the virus with the mutation as the one without it. While researchers are waiting for more conclusive results from direct tests of the virus with all the mutations, it is a hopeful sign — and a call to set up a global system to track changes in the coronavirus over time, to understand where, why and how the virus is changing.

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