The German pharmaceutical company BioNTech is optimistic that its coronavirus vaccine is successful against the current British strain, but its chief executive said that further tests are required to be absolutely sure.
The variant, which was found in recent weeks primarily in London and southeast England, has raised global concern due to indications that it could spread more easily.
Although there is no evidence that it causes more serious illnesses, as a result, many countries in Europe and beyond have limited travel from the United Kingdom.
At a press conference the day after the vaccine was approved in the European Union, Chief Executive Ugur Sahin said, “We don’t know at the moment whether our vaccine can also protect against this new variant,”
“But scientifically, it’s very likely that the immune response through this vaccine can handle the new virus variants.”
Mr. Sahin reported that 99 percent of the proteins on the British version are the same as on the prevalent strains, and BioNTech therefore has ‘scientific faith’ that its vaccine will be successful.
“But we will only know if the experiment is done, and it will take us about two weeks to get the data,” he said.
“The probability that our vaccine will work … Is relatively high.”
The company may do so in around six weeks if the vaccine has to be changed to the new version, Mr. Sahin said, but regulators will need to approve the changes before the shots can be used.
Adjusting the vaccine will be a setback to the start of vaccination programs that have killed more than 1.7 million people worldwide so far to curb the pandemic.
The BioNTech vaccine, developed in collaboration with the US pharmaceutical company Pfizer, has been approved in over 45 countries, including the United Kingdom, the United States and the EU.
The vaccine has already been given to hundreds of thousands of people.
Companies submitted data to regulators showing that the vaccine, sold in Europe under the COMIRNATY brand name, is 95% effective in preventing Covid-19 infection.
“All countries in the EU that have requested doses will receive them in the next five days, the very first shipment, with more shipments to follow next week,”All EU countries that have requested doses will receive them in the next five days, the very first shipment, with more shipments to follow next week.
A number of EU countries have announced plans to launch Sunday vaccinations.
He expects the country to receive more than 1.3 million doses by the end of this year, German Health Minister Jens Spahn said.
Because of the latest version there, Germany is among European nations that have banned flights from Britain.
“We want to avoid as long as possible the spread of a potentially dangerous virus variant in continental Europe,” Spahn said.
The head of the National Disease Control Center in Germany, Lothar Wieler, however, reported that it is very likely that the British version is already circulating in Germany.
Lothar Wieler, head of the Robert Koch Institute, said that it is normal for viruses to alter their genetic material and that can impact transmissibility.
“Whether that is really the case with the variant in England is not yet entirely clear,” he said.
“What is clear, however, is that the more widely viruses spread, the more opportunities they have to change.”
After seeing more evidence, a leading German virologist, initially suspicious of reports that the strain was much more infectious, voiced concern.
“unfortunately it doesn’t look good.”Unfortunately, it doesn’t look good.
“On the positive side, cases with the mutation have so far only increased in areas where overall incidence was high or increasing. So contact reduction also works against the spread of the mutation.”