How To Decipher The New Pfizer Study On Vaccines And Variants

One of the biggest and most pressing questions to arise about new SARS-CoV-2 variants like B.1.1.7, the so-called UK variant with 17 distinct mutations, and the so-called South African variant 501.V2 is whether they’ll impact the efficacy of Covid-19 vaccines.

In an attempt to offer some reassurance and possibly some answers, Pfizer has released a new study suggesting that people who have been immunized with their vaccine have antibodies that remain potent against at least one of the more prominent mutations, N501Y. This mutation is one of many that alters the virus’s spike protein and increases its ability to bind to and infect our cells. But there is so much more to the story than just N501Y.

The results of the Pfizer study, published yesterday and still undergoing peer review, are based on blood samples from 20 of the individuals who have already received the Pfizer vaccine. While it’s encouraging to know the Pfizer vaccine seems to be impervious to the effects of at least one significant variant, many more remain in the mix that we’re still unsure about. One such example is E484K, a mutation critical to the South African 501.V2 variant also located in the spike’s receptor-binding domain.

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Originally published on Forbes (January 8, 2021)

© William A. Haseltine, PhD. All Rights Reserved.