The head of the German company BioNTech said that it is not yet known whether there is a need to develop a new vaccine to protect against a new type of coronavirus disease (SARS-CoV-2) (Covid-19) due to a version of the pathogen called omicron. In an interview on Thursday.
In an interview with the German news magazine Der Spiegel, Ugur Sahin confirmed that many variants of omicron are circulating and it is not yet clear which one is “prevalent”, so it is not known which vaccine should be adapted to. However, this “is not new, and this was initially the case for Delta,” he said.
Asked if a new vaccine was ever needed, he said it was necessary to wait to see how Omicron spread and what the “clinical picture” of the resulting disease was. He said it would take a few more weeks to answer all the questions.
When asked that even the next version could be released by the time they start making the omicron-adapted vaccine, he said he was concerned earlier this year that in people with weakened immune systems, “the virus may take a long time to accumulate many of mutations, and ‘progress’.
Shaheen explained: This appears to be exactly what happened to the omicron. “In a small group of people, the virus may have gone through a longer period of time” and “certainly will recur more often,” he said.
If Omicron spreads, the later version would have to be more effective so that the next generation of virus could become infected, so it would have to constantly deal with another pathogen. The co-founder and CEO of BioNTech explained that producing multiple vaccines specifically designed for different versions of SARS-CoV-2 at the same time would not technically be a problem.
As he said, they were concerned about the emergence of omicron, which was first identified in South Africa in November. It was an “unexpected development”, “for a few days it wasn’t clear at all what we’re up against”, so it wasn’t possible to tell if it was an escape variant (bypassing vaccination-generated antibodies).
Fortunately, studies show that the oomicron is only a “partially escaped version that can, in principle, be controlled by vaccination”.
Ugur Sahin said preliminary data shows that three doses of the vaccine will clearly neutralize the virus, but only additional data will show how strong the protection is and how long it lasts.
He stressed that the two doses do not mean a complete vaccination that provides adequate protection. If omicron continues to spread, “and it appears to be the case, it would be scientifically reasonable to introduce a booster vaccine less than three months later,” the BioNTech chief explained.
Noting that all of this means that anyone receiving the third dose these weeks will need a booster dose next summer, the biotech chief said this is expected to happen if omicron replaces Delta. In the line of dominant virus variants, the fourth dose may already be a new, omicron-adapted vaccine.
BioNTech, led by a specialist and his wife, Ozlem Turise, who came to Germany as an immigrant from Turkey, has developed a vaccine against Covid-19 with the US pharmaceutical company Pfizer. Comirnaty was the first vaccine in the European Union to be licensed against Covid-19.
The vaccine used in society since the end of December last year is based on messenger RNA (mRNA) technology developed under the leadership of world-renowned Hungarian researcher Katalin Karikó at BioNTech.
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