Pfizer vaccine neutralizes Brazil and U.K. variants of Covid-19: Lab study

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There’s new optimism surrounding Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine’s ability to fight against the rapidly spreading new variants. CNBC’s Meg Tirrell reports. For access to live and exclusive video from CNBC subscribe to CNBC PRO:

New more contagious variants of the coronavirus are being investigated in the United States, raising questions about whether the Covid vaccines currently in use will provide protection against mutations.

There are multiple more contagious variants emerging around the globe, in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil. In the U.S., variants from New York City and California have been identified.

So far, studies suggest that the vaccines currently in use can recognize the emerging variants — but they don’t provide as much protection against these new strains. The variant from South Africa, for example, reduced Pfizer-BioNTech’s antibody protection by two-thirds, according to a February study. Moderna’s neutralizing antibodies dropped six-fold with the South Africa variant.

(There are several reasons the antibodies generated after receiving a vaccine might recognize a variant but not fight it as well. For instance, antibodies protect you by attaching to each individual spike protein on the surface of the coronavirus, which prevents it from infecting your cell. If a variant produces many times more virus, the antibodies may not be able to attach to all those virus pieces as precisely or efficiently.)

But boosters and new versions of vaccines that target the variants are already being explored.

The three vaccines that have been authorized by the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use from Moderna, Pfizer-BioNTech and Johnson & Johnson work in different ways, and therefore have different approaches to handling variants.

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