Pfizer and its partner BioNTech have announced on July 8 that they will be developing a booster shot of their COVID-19 vaccine. The statement from the companies also said a modification to the vaccine was also being tested to particularly combat the Delta variant.
The Delta variant of SARS CoV-2, which was first identified in India and caused the devastating second wave in the country, has been responsible for rising cases around the world. The variant is believed to be behind the recent surge in COVID-19 cases in Australia, Portugal, Malaysia and the UK, among others.
“While Pfizer and BioNTech believe a third dose of BNT162b2 has the potential to preserve the highest levels of protective efficacy against all currently known variants including Delta, the companies are remaining vigilant and are developing an updated version of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine that targets the full spike protein of the Delta variant,” read the companies’ joint statement.
The effectiveness of first-generation COVID-19 vaccines has been called to question against the Delta and the Delta Plus variants due to the unique mutations in their spike proteins.
Delta is known to be over 60 percent more transmissible than the Alpha variant, which was first found in the UK. Along with increased transmissibility, the variant was also more effective at evading the body’s immune response.
While more research is needed, the Delta Plus variant is expected to be even more transmissible and more efficient at completely evading the immune response in the human body. Others like Lambda, while not categorised as ‘variants of concern,’ are also being monitored closely.
The third dose of the ‘Comirnaty’ vaccine, as it is officially branded, will seek to improve the effectiveness of the mRNA-based vaccine against emerging variants. The initial testing of the third dose, given after six months of the second one, has shown encouraging results said the company. The company will be conducting more trials before sending the data to the US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) for approval.
The trials for the upgraded vaccine formula for the Delta variant are slated to start in August, subject to regulatory approvals.
(Edited by : Shoma Bhattacharjee)