The scientist behind the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine expresses confidence that his candidate will work against the new variant of coronavirus detected in the UK.
Chief Executive of BioNTech, Prof. Ugur Sahin, said further studies were being conducted to assess whether the vaccine induces full protection against the new variant, The Independent reports.
Should the vaccine need to be adapted, the company could do so in about six weeks, Prof Sahin said, though regulators might have to approve the changes before the shots can be rolled out.
He admitted that: “We don’t know at the moment if our vaccine is also able to provide protection against this new variant,” but because the proteins that coat the outside of the virus are 99 percent the same as the prevailing strain, BioNTech has ‘scientific confidence’ in its jab.
“Scientifically, it is highly likely that the immune response by this vaccine also can deal with the new virus variants,” Prof Sahin told a news conference the day after the two-dose candidate was approved for use in the European Union.
The variant, detected mainly in London and the southeast of England in recent weeks, is thought to be up to 70 per cent more transmissible, according to UK scientists.
Although there is no indication the new strain causes more serious illness, numerous countries in Europe and beyond have restricted travel from Britain as a result.
Prof Sahin said it would take “about two weeks” to test his candidate against the variant. “The likelihood that our vaccine works … is relatively high,” he reiterated.
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