While expressing confidence that the Codi-19 vaccine developed by his company was effective against the new United Kingdom variant of the virus, the chief executive of the German pharmaceutical company BioNTech said that one has to conduct more studies to be absolutely certain.
Efforts were currently on in the company to ascertain whether the company’s newly developed Covid-19 vaccine was be effective against the new variant of the virus identified in the UK or whether some work would be needed to adapt to it, said Uğur Şahin at a press conference. He said that results of the investigation would be made public within two weeks.
“We don’t know at the moment if our vaccine is also able to provide protection against this new variant,” Şahin said, a 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.”
There were nine mutations instead of one, in the variant discovered in Britain which is more usual, Şahin said.
But since there was 99 per cent similarity in the proteins on the UK variant of the virus and on the prevailing strains, therefore BioNTech had “scientific confidence” that the vaccine it has developed would be effective.
“We believe there is no reason to be concerned or worried,” he said.
Şahin said that the company could take about six weeks to adapt if the vaccine needed to be adjusted for the new variant.
“In principle, the beauty of the messenger technology is that we can directly start to engineer a vaccine which completely mimics this new mutation – we could be able to provide a new vaccine technically within six weeks,” he said.
However regulators would probably have to approve the changes before the new vaccine batch could be used because there would not be any “efficacy data”, he said.
However, the vaccine would not have a proper impact on infection numbers until the end of the summer, Şahin warned when asked when life could return to normal.
“We need a new definition of normal,” he said. “The virus will stay with us for the next 10 years,”
More than 45 countries have authorised the use of BioNTech’s vaccine, which has been developed with the US pharmaceutical company Pfizer.
In recent week, a new variant of the novel coronavirus that causes Covid-19 was discovered in London and south-east England which has raised concern globally because of reports that the new strain was 70 per cent more transmissible than the original one. Researchers and scientists have however not found any evidence that the new UK strain could cuase more severe illness or a rise in death rates. However a number of countries in Europe and other places have restricted travelling to and from the UK.
(Adapted from TheGuardian.com)