BioNTech can make vaccine for new variant in six weeks

EU approves first coronavirus vaccine

Agence France-Presse . Berlin | Published: 18:36, Dec 22,2020 | Updated: 00:25, Dec 23,2020


The co-founder of BioNTech said Tuesday it was ‘highly likely’ that its vaccine against the coronavirus works against the mutated strain detected in Britain, but it could also adapt the vaccine if necessary in six weeks.

‘Scientifically, it is highly likely that the immune response by this vaccine also can deal with the new virus variant,’ said Ugur Sahin.

But if needed, ‘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.’

Sahin said the variant detected in Britain has nine mutations, rather than just one as is usually common.

Nevertheless, he voiced confidence that the vaccine developed with Pfizer would be efficient because it ‘contains more than 1,000 amino acids, and only nine of them have changed, so that means 99 percent of the protein is still the same’.

He said tests are being run on the variant, with results expected in two weeks.

‘We have scientific confidence that the vaccine might protect but we will only know it if the experiment is done ... we will publish the data as soon as possible,’ he added.

The EU finally gave the green light for the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine on Monday, paving the way for the first inoculations to start across 27 countries just days after Christmas.

The decision was rushed through under pressure from European governments after Britain and the United States authorised the jab weeks earlier.

The European Medicines Agency recommended the vaccine developed by US pharma giant Pfizer and German firm BioNTech for use, and the European Commission formally approved it hours later.

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