A new strain of coronavirus was found in the United Kingdom earlier this month. The new strain is also believed to have spread to a few other countries. Moreover, with no travel restriction imposed by the United States on travelers from the United Kingdom, the likelihood of importing the new coronavirus strain in the country is high.
The new strain is a mutated version of the SARS-CoV-2 and known as the B.1.1.7 lineage. Per World Health Organization's
website, the COVID-19 pandemic has infected millions of people and caused more than 1.7 million deaths across the globe, as of Dec 23. Experts believe that the mutated virus is potentially more contagious and is also linked to the recent surge of infection cases in the United Kingdom. Spread of this new strain may accelerate infection rates, increasing pressure on the already burdened health infrastructure in many countries. Vaccine Efficacy Claims
Per a CNN
report, Pfizer ( PFE Quick Quote PFE - Free Report) and Moderna ( MRNA Quick Quote MRNA - Free Report) have started testing their FDA-authorized vaccines against the new strain of the coronavirus. The companies anticipate that it will take a few weeks before they can confirm their vaccine’s efficacy against the new strain backed by clinical study data. Currently, there is no evidence that the vaccines will not be effective against the new strain.
The same CNN report stated that Moderna expects its mRNA-based vaccine, mRNA-1273, to provide immunity against the new strain while Pfizer is generating data on neutralizing the new strain from blood samples of people immunized with its vaccine.
In a Reuters
article, Pfizer’s partner, BioNTech’s ( BNTX Quick Quote BNTX - Free Report) chief executive officer stated that it will take at least two weeks to confirm the efficacy of their mRNA-based vaccine, Comirnaty, against the new strain. Comirnaty is already approved for emergency use in the United Kingdom as well as Europe and a few other countries. He also said that the mutations in the virus have not changed most of the necessary sites used by the body's T-cell response to recognize the virus as well as “multiple antibody binding sites are also conserved.” These will likely help vaccines to remain effective against the virus. AstraZeneca ( AZN Quick Quote AZN - Free Report) is developing an adeno-virus based vaccine against the coronavirus in late-stage studies. Per a Reuters report, the company also believes that its vaccine candidate should be effective against the new coronavirus variant as the mutations do not appear to change the structure of the spike protein that is targeted by its vaccine candidate. Experts’ Claim
Some experts believe that the mRNA-based vaccines will likely be effective against the new coronavirus strain found in the United Kingdom. The genetic material in mRNA-based vaccines can be quickly re-engineered to match that of the mutated protein. However, some others believe that the new strain may reduce efficacy rates of the vaccines.
However, it remains to be seen how much effective the approved or under-development vaccines will be against the B.1.1.7 lineage of the coronavirus. It will likely be a few weeks before availability of any clinical data to support claims made by the vaccine-makers on efficacy. The World Health Organization also plans to convene a meeting to discuss strategies to counter the mutation.
Both U.S.-based companies, Pfizer and Moderna, with authorized coronavirus vaccine in their portfolio, carry a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). You can see
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