The CEO of BioNTech, the German firm that co-developed Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine, said Tuesday that he is confident it will work against a new, more infectious strain of the virus.
“We don’t know at the moment if our vaccine is also able to provide protection against this new variant,” Ugur Sahin told reporters Tuesday, according to Bloomberg News. “But scientifically, it is highly likely that the immune response by this vaccine also can deal with the new virus variants.”
Sahin added that further study is necessary to confirm the vaccine’s effectiveness against the new strain.
“We will know it only if the experiment is done and we will need about two weeks from now to get the data,” he said. “The likelihood that our vaccine works ... is relatively high."
He also said that the company could complete any necessary adjustments to the vaccine in about six weeks. The vaccine has been approved in more than 45 countries and on Monday was approved for use in the European Union.
The new coronavirus strain, which has so far emerged primarily in southeastern England, appears to be more contagious but no deadlier than the more widespread strain. Several countries, both in Europe and elsewhere, have banned flights from the U.K. in response. The U.S. was not among them as of Tuesday morning.
Officials in Germany, one of the countries that has implemented travel restrictions, warned that the new strain may already be circulating there.
“What is positive is that cases with the mutation so far only increased in areas where the overall incidence was high or rising,” Christian Drosten, a professor of virology at Berlin’s Charite hospital, tweeted Monday. “So contact reduction also works against the spread of the mutation.”
Neue Daten zur B.1.1.7-Mutante (heute veröffentlicht). Das sieht leider nicht gut aus. Positiv ist, dass Fälle mit der Mutante bisher nur in Gebieten zunahmen, wo die Gesamtinzidenz hoch oder ansteigend war. Kontaktreduktion wirkt also auch gegen die Verbreitung der Mutante. https://t.co/s3Wd3X7ukF— Christian Drosten (@c_drosten) December 21, 2020