By Nicoletta Lanese – Staff Writer LiveScience
A new genetic variant of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, has emerged in the United Kingdom, but it’s unlikely to threaten the effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines, scientists say.
The leading vaccines, including the now-authorized Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, specifically target the spike protein — a pointed structure on the virus that plugs into cells to start infection — but antibodies can latch onto many different sites along that spike. If the spike develops a mutation in just one spot, the remaining assortment of antibodies can still grab hold elsewhere. That means, since vaccines generate a variety of antibodies, subtle mutations in the virus shouldn’t make them less effective.