JUN 08, 2021 7:30 AM PDT

Is the Pfizer-BioNtech Vaccine Variant-Resistant?

WRITTEN BY: Tara Fernandez

Genetic variants of SARS-CoV-2 have emerged over the course of the pandemic, threatening public health efforts to limit COVID-19 transmissions. Variants of concern are particularly worrying—these may be more transmissible, cause more severe disease symptoms, or evade currently available diagnostics, treatments, or vaccines.

Recently, researchers studying immune responses in people who received the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID vaccine observed that these individuals have much lower levels of antibodies against the Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2, as compared to other variants in circulation.

The Delta variant, first detected in India, has rapidly become the most dominant variant in the UK, and the efficacy of current COVID-19 vaccines to protect against this variant is still unknown. A series of 12 mutations in the spike protein differentiates the Delta variant from the virus first detected in Wuhan in late 2019.

This study by scientists at the Francis Crick Institute, the largest of its kind, sought to bridge this gap, investigating how vaccine-induced antibodies could neutralize emerging variants of concern in healthy adults. They tested the efficacy of neutralizing antibodies against five SARS-CoV-2 variants: the original strain, the D614G strain that was dominant in the European first wave in April 2020, and the Alpha, Beta, and Delta variants.

In individuals who had received both doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, neutralizing antibody levels were five times lower against the Delta variant compared to those against the original strain (or the “blueprint” for current vaccines). These protective antibody responses were found to be even lower for those who had only received one dose of the vaccine.

"This virus will likely be around for some time to come, so we need to remain agile and vigilant,” said infectious disease specialist, Emma Wall. “Our study is designed to be responsive to shifts in the pandemic so that we can quickly provide evidence on changing risk and protection.”

"The most important thing is to ensure that vaccine protection remains high enough to keep as many people out of hospital as possible. And our results suggest that the best way to do this is to quickly deliver second doses and provide boosters to those whose immunity may not be high enough against these new variants," Wall added.

 

Sources: The Lancet, The Francis Crick Institute.

About the Author
  • Tara Fernandez has a PhD in Cell Biology and has spent over a decade uncovering the molecular basis of diseases ranging from skin cancer to obesity and diabetes. She currently works on developing and marketing disruptive new technologies in the biotechnology industry. Her areas of interest include innovation in molecular diagnostics, cell therapies, and immunology. She actively participates in various science communication and public engagement initiatives to promote STEM in the community.
You May Also Like
MAR 14, 2021
Immunology
How Are Allergies Developed?
MAR 14, 2021
How Are Allergies Developed?
You might have experienced it yourself or met someone that can not eat a certain food or can not take a specific medicat ...
MAR 18, 2021
Immunology
"Brainwashed" Immune Cells Help Breast Tumors Thrive
MAR 18, 2021
"Brainwashed" Immune Cells Help Breast Tumors Thrive
Immunologists have discovered a mechanism through which immune cells get recruited into breast cancer tumors, and instea ...
MAY 17, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
Survey Results: Where Is Pluripotent Stem Cell Research Now?
MAY 17, 2021
Survey Results: Where Is Pluripotent Stem Cell Research Now?
Human pluripotent stem cell (hPSC) lines are now commonly used across the globe. In the lab, researchers rely on hPSCs t ...
JUN 08, 2021
Immunology
Fueling the Immune System's Killers
JUN 08, 2021
Fueling the Immune System's Killers
There’s a group of “killers” protecting your body against infections and eliminating potentially cance ...
JUN 16, 2021
Cell & Molecular Biology
A Potential Way to Prevent Metastatic Cancer
JUN 16, 2021
A Potential Way to Prevent Metastatic Cancer
Metastatic cancer is the deadliest, and it can happen years after cancer has been treated to the point of remission. Met ...
JUN 24, 2021
Immunology
Gut-Healing Stem Cells to Treat HIV Infections
JUN 24, 2021
Gut-Healing Stem Cells to Treat HIV Infections
A new study has revealed how stem cells can be used to amplify immune responses to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The ...
Loading Comments...