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Pfizer and BioNTech, makers of a coronavirus vaccine, on Thursday said that their product is effective against the Covid-19 variants that have emerged in the United Kingdom and South Africa.

In a statement, the two companies said these preliminary findings "do not indicate the need for a new vaccine to address the emerging variants".

They said they are "prepared to respond" if a new strain is shown to be able to evade the immunity of the vaccine, adding that they can produce updates to their jab if needed.

The statement comes after US biotech firm Moderna this week announced that its coronavirus vaccine also appears to work against the new and more infectious variants of Covid-19 found in the UK and South Africa.

Early laboratory tests suggested antibodies triggered by the Covid-19 vaccine can recognise and fight the new variants.

However, more studies are needed to confirm this is true for people who have been vaccinated.

Covaxin effective on UK virus strain of Covid-19

Meanwhile, an Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) study on India-made Covaxin shows a comparable neutralisation activity of the vaccinated individuals against the new UK-variant strain.

The ICMR's National Institute of Virology scientist performed the plaque reduction neutralisation test using sera collected from the 26 recipients of Bharat Biotech's coronavirus vaccine (Covaxin) against UK mutant virus.

"A comparable neutralization activity of the vaccinated individuals sera showed against UK-variant and the heterologous strain with similar efficiency dispel the uncertainty of possible neutralization escape," stated document appeared in bioRxiv in a pre-print version.

"We successfully isolated and characterized the SARS-CoV-2 from UK returnees in India with all signature mutations of the UK-variant," noted the NIV- Pune scientist.

"We present the neutralizing antibodies (Nab) titers to underline the efficacy of Covaxin vaccine candidate against SARS-CoV-2 UK-variant and one of the heterologous strains. Sera collected from 38 vaccine recipients, who received Covaxin vaccine-candidate in phase-II trial had equivalent NAb titers to homologous strain and two heterologous strains with the characteristic substitution of the UK-variant," said the authors.

"The median ratio of 50 per cent neutralization of sera was found to be 0.8 and 0.9 when compared with earlier detected SARS CoV-2 strains against mutant UK strain," they said.

"Our study evidently highlighted comparable neutralization activity of vaccinated individuals sera against variant as well as heterologous SARS-CoV-2 strains."

"Importantly, sera from the vaccine recipients could neutralise the UK-variant strains discounting the uncertainty around potential escape. It was reassuring from the neutralizing antibodies data generated in our laboratory that the indigenous Covaxin following its rollout in the vaccination program, could be expected to work against the new UK-variant. It is unlikely that the mutation would be able to dampen the potential benefits of the vaccine in concern," it said.

The new variants have been spreading fast in a number of nations.

In India, the number of people who have tested positive for the new UK variant of Covid-19 has climbed to 153, Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan said on Thursday.

With agency inputs

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