Ugur Sahin, director of BioNTech, a partner at Pfizer, is confident that the recently approved Covid-19 vaccine is effective against the mutant nCoV strain in the UK.
The virus variant has been detected in London and the southeastern region of the UK in recent weeks, causing concern around the world because of the stronger spread.
“We do not currently know whether the vaccine will protect people from the new strain. But scientifically, it is very likely that the immune response of the vaccine will handle,” Ugur Sahin, director of BioNTech, press conference on December 22.
The new mutation is 99 percent of the prevalent nCoV strains, he said. Therefore, the German pharmaceutical company has “scientific belief” that BioNTech’s BNT162b2 vaccine and its partner Pfizer will be effective.
“But we have only determined this when we run the test and it will take about two weeks from now to get the data. The likelihood of the vaccine working is relatively high,” he said.
If the injections need to be adjusted to accommodate the new variant, the company could do it in six weeks, Sahin said. Regulators need to evaluate and approve the revised vaccine before it is put into use.
The need to refine the vaccine would be a blow to vaccination rollout and overall pandemic containment efforts. So far, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been licensed in 45 countries, including the UK, the US and the European bloc. Hundreds of thousands of people have been vaccinated.
Sean Marett, BioNTech’s commercial director, said: “All countries across the continent require vaccines to be received in the next 5 days, initial supply rolling out next week.”
The company is distributing doses of BNT162b2 from its factories in Belgium to European countries by trucks and planes. The EU has ordered 200 million injections. BioNTech expects the demand for Covid-19 vaccine to continue to increase in the future.
“This virus is not going to go away,” Marett said. “It will stay for at least the next decade. So if given a choice, people should choose to be vaccinated.”
It is not clear how long the immunity produced by the vaccine will last. According to Mr. Marett, people will most likely have a booster shot every one to two years.
EU countries plan to start vaccination on December 27. Germany’s Health Minister, Jens Spahn, expects the country to receive more than 1.3 million injections by the end of this year. Germany is among the European countries that ban flights from the UK because of the new nCoV variant.
“We want to prevent for as long as possible a dangerous mutation could spread across the continent,” he said.
Thuc Linh (According to the AP)