BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin, whose company has partnered with Pfizer to create a COVID-19 vaccine is confident that the jab should also eliminate the new strain of the mutated virus discovered in the UK. Sahin recently discussed with the Associated Press earlier this week stating:
It is highly likely that the immune response by this vaccine also can deal with the new virus variants.
However, the German pharmaceutical company is still conducting research on this and will have a more definitive answer in the next two weeks. Sahin continued:
But we will know it only if the experiment is done and we will need about two weeks from now to get the data. The likelihood that our vaccine works ... is relatively high.
Sahin continued to explain that the reason why it’s ‘highly likely’ that the mRNA vaccine would still be effective is that it is geared to target the virus’ proteins and the proteins of the new strain are actually 99% similar to that of the other strains.
However, if the vaccine doesn’t end up being as effective against the new strain, Sahid confirmed that it would only take about six weeks to manufacture a new one:
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.
Moderna has also spoken out about the new variant, in a statement that the company is also confident that their vaccine will also still be effective against the new strain:
Based on the data to date, we expect that the Moderna vaccine-induced immunity would be protective against the variants recently described in the UK. We will be performing additional tests in the coming weeks to confirm this expectation.
Concern for the vaccine’s effectiveness comes as Boris Johnson sounded the alarm that the new coronavirus variant was 50-70% more infectious than previous strains and also has a higher transmission rate amongst children.
The strain, which was initially discovered in south-east England, is now responsible for over 60% of new infections in the country. Experts have also warned that just because the new strain is more contagious, doesn’t necessarily make it any more deadly. Former head of the FDA Scott Gottlieb spoke to CBS:
It's probably not more lethal, but we don't fully understand its contours.
The strain has also been detected in six more countries including Italy, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Australia and Gibraltar, with many more suspecting that the new variant of the disease has already entered undetected. This has caused over 40 countries to put in place a travel ban on all those incoming from England.
The emergence of the new strain confirms that it will be likely residents will have to get a new coronavirus vaccine every year to combat new strains, much like that of the flu jab. And according to Gottlieb, we will most likely witness more strains as time goes on.