Germany’s BioNTech said Friday it was urgently studying how well the coronavirus vaccine it developed with Pfizer protects against the new B.1.1.529 variant detected in South Africa.
“We expect more data from the laboratory tests in two weeks at the latest,” a spokesperson said.
“These data will provide more information about whether B.1.1.529 could be an escape variant that may require an adjustment of our vaccine if the variant spreads globally.”
The discovery of the new variant by scientists in South Africa has sparked global alarm, amid concerns its many mutations could make it even more dangerous than the highly contagious Delta strain.
A number of countries including Britain, Italy, Germany and Singapore have moved to curtail travel from South Africa and several neighbouring nations to prevent the variant’s spread.
BioNTech said variant B.1.1.529 “differs significantly from previously observed variants as it has additional mutations located in the spike protein”.
But it said that even if its jab — which is based on novel mRNA technology — needed to be tweaked, changes could be made quickly.
“Pfizer and BioNTech have taken actions months ago to be able to adapt the mRNA vaccine within six weeks and ship initial batches within 100 days in the event of an escape variant,” the spokesperson said.