Pfizer has manufactured the first batch of Delta variant vaccines

Clinical trials may begin before the end of August.

Pharma giant Pfizer has already developed and manufactured ingredients for a COVID-19 vaccine targeting the highly contagious Delta variant.

The Delta variant: As the coronavirus spreads, its genetic code can undergo mutations. Versions of the virus with a unique set of mutations are called a new variant or strain. 

New strains are common and usually fizzle out on their own. 

But the coronavirus’s Delta variant, however, has taken off across the world since its discovery — it’s now behind more than 90% of new coronavirus cases in the U.S.

The challenge: Data suggests that the Delta variant is possibly twice as transmissible as the original strain, and there’s some early evidence that it might lead to more severe cases. 

The Delta variant is now behind more than 90% of new coronavirus cases in the U.S.

The current mRNA vaccines still appear highly effective against serious illness from the Delta variant, but because they were designed to target the original strain, the shots may not be as effective as against Delta, which has a number of mutations on the virus’s spike protein.

That’s led some researchers to begin suggesting that vaccine manufacturers develop shots targeting the Delta variant specifically, since they might be more effective at preventing infection and stemming the virus’s spread.

A targeted vaccine: One of the huge advantages of mRNA vaccines is that they can be easily updated to match new strains, just by plugging in the genetic code of the variant.

And Pfizer is already on the case — the company has announced that it has already developed a COVID-19 vaccine targeting the Delta variant. 

Vaccines for new variants could be authorized more rapidly.

It also said that it had manufactured the first batch of mRNA for a clinical trial, which it expects to begin in August (if granted regulatory approval).

It’s too soon to say when Pfizer’s shot might reach the public, but the FDA said back in February that updated vaccines for new variants could be authorized more rapidly, similar to the flu shot. 

If the variant vaccine makes it into people’s arms while Delta is still the dominant strain, it could have a huge impact on the spread of the coronavirus.

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