Pfizer and BioNTech, makers of a Covid-19 vaccine, said on Thursday that their product is effective against coronavirus variants that have emerged in Britain and South Africa.
In a statement, the two companies said the "small differences" detected in tests comparing the original virus and the recent versions "are unlikely to lead to a significant reduction in the effectiveness of the vaccine".
While the findings indicated no need for a new vaccine to tackle the new strains, Pfizer and BioNTech said they would respond if there was evidence that the variants could defeat their current vaccine.
They would continue to monitor their vaccine's "real-world effectiveness", including against new strains, they said.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
"Pfizer and BioNTech believe that the flexibility of BioNTech’s proprietary mRNA vaccine platform is well suited to develop new vaccine variants if required," they said.
Daily global deaths from Covid-19 topped 18,000 for the first time Wednesday, with vaccines seen as the only real chance of returning to some form of normality.Follow our full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here.