The scientist who co-founded the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine says he is “confident” it will be effective against a new strain circulating in the UK and other countries, according to a report.
Dr. Ugur Sahin, BioNTech’s co-founder and CEO, said it is “highly likely” that the jab can “also deal with the COVID variant,” adding that it could also adapt the shot if necessary, The Sun reported.
Scientists worried that the new strain — which was first detected after an unexpected spike in cases in the UK in early December — could be more contagious because its 17 mutations include changes to the “spike” protein, the part of the virus that makes it infectious.
Those fears were realized Dec. 19 when Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered an unexpected last-minute lockdown as he revealed that the new variant appeared to be at least 70 percent more transmissible.
While there is no indication the mutated bug causes more serious illness, several European countries and beyond have banned travel from the UK as a precaution.
Sahin said the proteins in the variant are “99 percent the same as the original version” — and BioNTech has “scientific confidence in the vaccine,” according to the UK news outlet.
“The likelihood that our vaccine works … is relatively high,” he added.
“Scientifically, it is highly likely that the immune response by this vaccine also can deal with the new virus variant,” Sahin said.
But if necessary, he added, “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.”
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