BioNTech CEO confident vaccine will work on UK variant
Sahin said that the proteins on the UK variant are 99% the same as on the prevailing strains, and therefore BioNTech has "scientific confidence" that its vaccine will be effective.
German pharmaceutical company BioNTech is confident that its coronavirus vaccine works against the new UK variant, but further studies are needed to be completely sure, its chief executive said on Dec. 22.
The variant, detected mainly in London and the southeast of England in recent weeks, has sparked concern worldwide because of signs that it may spread more easily. While there is no indication it causes more serious illness, numerous countries in Europe and beyond have restricted travel from the UK as a result.
“We don’t know at the moment if our vaccine is also able to provide protection against this new variant,” CEO Ugur Sahin told a news conference the day after the vaccine was approved for use in the European Union. “But scientifically, it is highly likely that the immune response by this vaccine also can deal with the new virus variants.”
Sahin said that the proteins on the UK variant are 99% the same as on the prevailing strains, and therefore BioNTech has “scientific confidence” that its vaccine will be effective.
“But we will know it only if the experiment is done and we will need about two weeks from now to get the data,” he said. “The likelihood that our vaccine works … is relatively high.”
Should the vaccine need to be adjusted for the new variant the company could do so in about 6 weeks, Sahin said, though regulators might have to approve the changes before the shots can be used.
Having to adjust the vaccine would be a blow for the rollout of immunization campaigns and the effort to rein in the pandemic that has so far killed more than 1.7 million people worldwide.
BioNTech’s vaccine, which was developed together with U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer, has been authorized for use in more than 45 countries including Britain, the United States and the EU. Hundreds of thousands of people have already received the shots.
The companies submitted data to regulators showing the vaccine, which goes by the brand name COMIRNATY in Europe, is 95% effective in preventing infection with COVID-19.