Laboratory studies have shown that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine can still target a key mutation that has emerged in two new variants of coronavirus.
However, this is only one of many mutations that are found in the new forms of the virus, which may mean that the combined effects of the multiple mutations may help the virus evade the immune system.
For this reason, the study is not being seen as definitive scientific evidence about how the vaccine will perform.
New variants which have been detected in the United Kingdom and South Africa, are spreading more quickly. This has raised questions over what level of protection vaccines can offer against them.
The study by the University of Texas Medical Branch focuses on a mutation called N501Y, which as emerged in both new variants.
This is thought to be important because it is in the part of the virus that makes first contact with our body’s cells and changes could make it easier to get in and cause an infection.
Two forms of the virus – one with and one without the mutation- were created by researchers. The virus was then placed in blood samples taken from 20 patients that had been vaccinated in clinical trials.
The results showed the immune systems of vaccinated patients were able to take out the new mutation.