US drug maker Moderna is trying to allay fears that a new variant of SARS-CoV-2 is spreading rapidly across Europe, saying it has “confidence” that its vaccine will still be effective against the new strain. “Based on the data to date, Moderna expects that the vaccine-induced immunity to the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine will be protective against the variants of the SARS-CoV-2 virus recently described in the United Kingdom,” the statement released on Wednesday. evening, reader.
The press release comes a day after BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin shared a similar sentiment during a meeting with journalists, saying he feels confident that the vaccine his company created with Pfizer will successfully block the new variant. “Scientifically, it is very likely that the immune response from this vaccine can also handle the new virus variants,” Sahin said.
The variant, known as “B117,” is thought to be 70 percent more contagious than the current strain circulating in the United States, and may be responsible for as many as 60 percent of cases in London. Although there is no evidence that it causes more serious disease, it has been shown to contain many mutations, one of which is currently gaining momentum in South Africa.
Nevertheless, both BioNTech and Moderna appear steadfast in the belief that their existing vaccines will be sufficient to stop the new strain. Part of this seems to focus on the fact that both vaccines use messenger RNA, a new technology that works by encoding the spike protein of SIP-CoV-2 in the cells. This means something, despite the differences between the two strains, the new variant – according to both companies – represents a “less than 1 percent difference” in proteins.
Just as sure of the vaccine’s ability to prevent the new mutations is Dr. Amesh Adalja, senior researcher at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “It is not easy for viruses to evade a vaccine in such a short period of time, especially because the virus has not really been exposed to the people who have been vaccinated,” Adalja tells Yahoo Life.
In addition to the fact that vaccinations have just begun to roll out, he says vaccines activate the immune system in more ways than one. “Vaccines induce not only one antibody, but many different antibodies, and they also induce T cell immunity,” says Adalja. T cells, otherwise known as the “soldiers” of the immune system, can work on many different viruses, and he says he may therefore be able to “neutralize” the virus.
Dr. Andrew Badley, head of the Mayo Clinic’s task force COVID-19, tells Yahoo Life in a statement that his team “keeps an eye on developments and ongoing research”, but that the current situation should not be a cause for concern. “We know the virus mutates 1-2 times a month, so it’s not a surprise,” says Badley. He notes that some of the new mutations are worrying because they “increase the ease of virus entry into cells” and “can help avoid antibodies”, but that so far they do not appear to be a threat to vaccines.
“To date, there is no evidence that the new viral variant neither avoids immunity nor resists current treatment,” says Badley. “So that’s good news for now. It is a reminder that we must continue to take precautions: wear masks, social distance, get our hands good and often. ”
In the event that one of the new mutations of the virus is able to evade the immunity created by the vaccine, both Adalja and Sahin say that it will probably not be difficult to reformulate the vaccine to include them. “If there was a problem because it is an mRNA, it can be easily updated to include an alternative strain,” says Adalja. “But I do not think it’s going to happen.”
BioNTech’s Sahin during Tuesday’s press conference agreed. “In principle, the beauty of messenger technology is that we can immediately start constructing a vaccine that completely mimics this new mutation,” he said. “We could be able to deliver a new vaccine technically within six weeks.”
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