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Still Likely to Work

Uğur Şahin, the chief executive of BioNTech, says the vaccine his company developed with Pfizer should be effective against the new SARS-CoV-2 strain identified in the UK, the Guardian reports.

The strain, dubbed B.1.1.7, has led to concerns that it might be more easily transmitted than other SARS-CoV-2 stains, but as Science has reported, researchers are still trying to work out the significance of the new strain. 

According to the Guardian, Şahin says that as the proteins on this new strain are still highly similar to those on other strains, the vaccine still will likely be effective. "We don't know at the moment if our vaccine is also able to provide protection against this new variant," he adds. "But scientifically, it is highly likely that the immune response by this vaccine also can deal with the new virus variants."

Moncef Slaoui, the head scientific advisor to Operation Warp Speed in the US, similarly tells the New York Times that the new strain was unlikely to affect vaccine efficacy.

Şahin adds that if the vaccine does need to be tweaked to provide protection against this strain, that could be done in a few weeks, the Guardian says.