BioNTech says it is testing new COVID variant to see if it responds to vaccine

Results expected within several weeks, company says.

Updated: November 27, 2021 - 10:41am

The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook

Medical company BioNTech said this week that it is testing its vaccine against the latest COVID-19 variant to determine whether or not the shot is effective against the latest mutation of the pandemic virus.

World leaders and medical officials expressed alarm this week at a new “variant of concern” arising in Africa, one that is allegedly, like the Delta variant before it, highly transmissible. Officials from numerous countries including the U.S. put in place travel bans against countries reportedly experiencing spread of the variant.  

BioNTech said that it was exploring whether or not it would have to alter its vaccine in any way to account for the new strain.

"We expect more data from the laboratory tests in two weeks at the latest,” the company told told Reuters. “These data will provide more information about whether B.1.1.529 could be an escape variant that may require an adjustment of our vaccine if the variant spreads globally.”

The company told media this week that earlier this year it had already planned for the potential need of a rapid alteration of the vaccine in case of the emergence of new variants. 

The new variant has been dubbed “Omicron,” continuing the tradition of using Greek letters to dub variants of the virus.