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Experts see vaccines effective against UK’s new Covid strain too

BioNTech vaccine

The co-founder of BioNTech said Tuesday it was "highly likely" that its vaccine against the coronavirus works against the mutated strain detected in Britain, but it could also adapt the vaccine if necessary in six weeks. Scientifically, it is highly likely that the immune response by this vaccine also can deal with the new virus variant," an AFP report quoted Ugur Sahin as saying.

But if needed, "in principle the beauty of the messenger technology is that we can directly start to engineer a vaccine which completely mimics this new mutation — we could be able to provide a new vaccine technically within six weeks," Sahin said. Europe’s health regulator had also said on Monday that the new strain of Covid-19 that has surfaced in Britain probably isn’t as different from earlier to render the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine ineffective.

The antibody response seen from the shot shouldn’t be compromised by the effects of mutations in the new strain, Marco Cavaleri, chairman of the European Medicines Agency’s pandemic task force, said at a press conference.

Health authorities would start to be worried “if we see multiple mutations, particularly in the spike protein,” Cavaleri said. “Even if we don’t have yet full confirmation, it is very likely that the vaccine will retain protection against this new variant,” Cavaleri said. The U.K. started its vaccination campaign on Dec. 8. By Monday, some 500,000 people had gotten their first dose of the vaccine, according to the country’s Health Minister Matt Hancock.