…As researchers say Pfizer vaccine may work against new variants
As the world began to jostle for COVID-19 vaccine, the European Union (EU) is planning to purchase additional 300 million doses of the vaccine produced by Pfizer/BioNTech.
Head of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen disclosed this today in a statement, saying the Union will get 200 million additional with an option of another 100 million doses at a later date, adding that the commission is also expecting more brands of vaccine from other manufacturers.
Von der Leyen also noted in the statement that 75 million of the additional doses would be delivered in the second quarter of year 2021.
EU, it would be recalled had earlier reached an agreement with Pfizer/BioNTech in September, 2020 for 200 million doses of the vaccine.
The statement, obtained from the commission’s website by Pharmanewsonline, dated 8 January, 2021 reads in part: ”The European Commission today proposed to the EU Member States to purchase an additional 200 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine produced by BioNTech and Pfizer, with the option to acquire another 100 million doses.
“This would enable the EU to purchase up to 600 million doses of this vaccine, which is already being used across the EU.
“The additional doses will be delivered starting in the second quarter of 2021. The EU has acquired a broad portfolio of vaccines with different technologies. It has secured up to 2.3 billion doses from the most promising vaccine candidates for Europe and its neighbourhood.
“In addition to the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine, a second vaccine, produced by Moderna, was authorised on 6 January, 2021. Other vaccines are expected to be approved soon. This vaccine portfolio would enable the EU not only to cover the needs of its whole population, but also to supply vaccines to neighbouring countries”, the statement said.
Meanwhile, a laboratory study conducted by the U.S. drugmaker has stated that Pfizer Inc and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine appeared to work against the highly transmissible new variants of the Coronavirus discovered in the UK and South Africa.
Reuters had reported that the not-yet peer reviewed study by Pfizer and scientists from the University of Texas Medical Branch indicated the vaccine was effective in neutralizing virus with the so-called N501Y mutation of the spike protein.
One of Pfizer’s top viral vaccine scientists, Phil Dormitzer said the mutation could be responsible for greater transmissibility and there had been concern it could also make the virus escape antibody neutralization elicited by the vaccine.
The study was conducted on blood taken from people who had been given the vaccine. Its findings are limited, because it does not look at the full set of mutations found in either of the new variants of the rapidly spreading virus.
Dormitzer said it was encouraging that the vaccine appears effective against the mutation, as well as 15 other mutations the company has previously tested against.
“So we’ve now tested 16 different mutations, and none of them have really had any significant impact. That’s the good news,” he said. “That doesn’t mean that the 17th won’t.”
Dormitzer noted another mutation found in the South African variant, called the E484K mutation, is also concerning.
The researchers plan to run similar tests to see if the vaccine is effective against other mutations found in the UK and South African variants and hope to have more data within weeks.
Scientists have expressed concern that vaccines being rolled out may not be able to protect against the new variants, particularly the one that emerged in South Africa.