BioNTech CEO Confident Coronavirus Vaccine Will Work On U.K. Variant
CEO Ugur Sahin said more study was needed, but because the proteins on the variant are 99% the same as the prevailing strains, BioNTech has “scientific confidence” in the vaccine.
The chief executive of BioNTech says the German pharmaceutical company is confident that its coronavirus vaccine works against the UK variant, but further studies are needed to be completely sure.
Ugur Sahin said Tuesday 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 on the variant are 99% the same as the prevailing strains, BioNTech has “scientific confidence” in the vaccine.
Sahin said BioNTech is conducting further studies and hopes to have certainty within the coming weeks.
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.
BioNTech’s vaccine, developed together with U.S. pharmaceutical company Pfizer, is authorized for use in more than 45 countries.
Meantime, stranded Europe-bound truckers are hoping to receive the green light to get out of Britain soon, after some of the most dramatic travel restrictions of the pandemic were imposed on the country following the discovery of the new coronavirus strain.
More than 1,500 trucks snaked along a major highway in southeast England near the country’s vital Channel ports or crowded into a nearby disused airport on Tuesday.
The backups illustrated the scale of Britain’s isolation after countries from Canada to India banned flights from the U.K. and France barred the entry of its trucks for 48 hours beginning Sunday night.
The blockages raised concerns of food shortages if the restrictions weren’t lifted by Wednesday.
Several EU countries have said they plan to start vaccinating on Sunday. Germany’s health minister, Jens Spahn, said he expects the country to receive more than 1.3 million doses by the end of this year.
Germany is among the European countries that have banned flights from the U.K. because of the new variant. But Lothar Wieler, the head of Germany’s national disease control center, said it was very likely the U.K. variant is already circulating in Germany.
A leading German virologist who was initially skeptical about reports that the strain was much more contagious voiced concern after seeing more data. Christian Drosten, a professor of virology at Berlin’s Charite hospital, tweeted that “unfortunately it doesn’t look good.”
But Drosten added that the mutation has so far increased only in areas where there was a high or rising rate of infection, meaning that reducing contacts works against its spread.