Pfizer and BioNTech said Friday that a COVID-19 vaccine could be optimized and produced within 100 days to counter a “vaccine escape” variant.

The World Health Organization identified the strain B.1.1.529 found in southern Africa as a highly transmissible “worrying variant”. The WHO has identified the trunk with the Greek letter omicron.

In an email to FOX Business, Pfizer said vaccine manufacturers are “vigilant” and “have a constant surveillance effort focused on monitoring new variants that may be escaping the protection of our vaccine.”

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“As always, we will continue to pursue the science as we explore the best approaches to protecting people from COVID-19,” Pfizer wrote. “In the event a vaccine escape variant emerges, Pfizer and BioNTech expect to be able to develop and manufacture a bespoke vaccine against that variant in about 100 days, subject to regulatory approval.”


Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer, had previously promised that the companies could develop a new vaccine within the same timeframe.

“So far, the data has shown that none of the existing variant strains escaped the protection of our vaccine. I repeat: none. None,” he said in June at the White House. “Nevertheless, we have set up a process to develop a new vaccine within 100 days if necessary. God forbid.”

In a separate statement to FOX Business, a spokesman said that BioNTech had immediately initiated investigations into the variant.

“The variant differs significantly from the variants observed so far, as it has additional mutations in the spike protein. We expect further data from the laboratory tests in two weeks at the latest. These data will shed more light on whether B.1.1.529 could be “an escape variant that may require our vaccine to be modified if the variant spreads worldwide,” the spokesman wrote.

“Months ago, Pfizer and BioNTech took steps to adapt the mRNA vaccine within six weeks and, in the event of an escape variant, to be able to ship the first batches within 100 days. To this end, the companies have started clinical studies with variant-specific vaccines. ”(Alpha and Delta) to collect safety and tolerability data, which can be made available to the supervisory authorities as part of the blueprint studies, if necessary [a] needed a variant-specific vaccine, “the company said.

Johnson & Johnson also announced to FOX Business that the company is testing the effectiveness of Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen vaccine against variant B.1.1.529.

“We are closely monitoring newly emerging COVID-19 virus strains with variations of the SARS-CoV-2 spike protein and are already testing the effectiveness of our vaccine against the new and rapidly spreading variant, which was first discovered in southern Africa,” wrote one Speaker in a Friday email. “We stand firm in the benefits that the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine will bring to millions of people around the world.”


To date, the delta variant is by far the most commonly transmitted form of COVID-19; it makes up more than 99% of the sequences shared with the world’s largest public database.

The new variant was also discovered in Israel, Botswana and Hong Kong, and some world leaders – in disregard of the instructions of the World Health Organization (WHO) – made the decision on Friday to introduce travel restrictions for fear of possible spread.

The coronavirus continues to develop as it spreads and many new variants, including those with potentially risky mutations, often die out. Scientists monitor possible changes that could be more transmissible or deadly, but pinpointing the exact dangers takes time.

In one Friday interview On CNN’s New Day, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the US worked with South African scientists to determine whether or not the variant could bypass the immune response.

“Because if you look at a mutation, it can give you a clue or a prediction that it might escape the immune response, the lab where you can test the various antibodies. So you can have a prediction that they might elude, or you can actually prove it. At the moment we are getting the material together with our South African colleagues in order to achieve a situation in which you could actually test it directly, “he explained.

“So at the moment you’re talking about a kind of red flag that this could be a problem, but we don’t know,” said the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) to “New Day”. Hostess Brianna Keilar. “As soon as you test it, you’ll know for sure whether or not it bypasses the antibodies we make, for example against the virus through a vaccine or after convalescence from an infection. If you get antibodies, do so. ”Antibodies protect you from this new virus? The answer is we don’t know right now, but we will find out for sure. “


Data from the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that Pfizer leads Moderna with more than 264 million and more than 173 million vaccines administered, respectively.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.