UPDATED: BioNTech says expect more data on new variant in 2 weeks

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FRANKFURT, Nov 26 (Reuters) – BioNTech, the inventor of the western world’s most widely used COVID-19 vaccine, said it expects more laboratory data on a new worrying coronavirus variant detected in South Africa within two weeks to help determine whether the biotech firm’s shot would have to be reworked.

“We understand the concern of experts and have immediately initiated investigations on variant B.1.1.529,” the company, which is in a vaccine alliance with Pfizer, said in a statement when asked to comment.

“We expect more data from the laboratory tests in two weeks at the latest. 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,” it added.

Escape variants are virus versions that elude the targeted immune response brought about by vaccination.

Under that scenario, Pfizer and BioNTech would be able to redesign their shot within 6 weeks and ship initial batches within 100 days, BioNTech added.

Global authorities reacted with alarm on Friday to the new variant, with the EU and Britain among those tightening border controls as scientists sought to find out if the mutation was vaccine-resistant.

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