With the omicron variant fueling new COVID-19 concerns, the CEO of leading vaccine player BioNTech says he’s not sure whether a different shot will be needed to protect against the new strain.
“This variant might be able to infect vaccinated people,” BioNTech’s Ugur Sahin said Friday during the Reuters Next conference. “We anticipate that infected people who have been vaccinated will still be protected against severe disease.”
In another interview this week, Sahin urged people to remain calm.
“Our message is: Don’t freak out, the plan remains the same: Speed up the administration of a third booster shot,” Sahin told the Wall Street Journal.
The words from the BioNTech boss are in contrast to the ominous tone taken earlier this week by Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel, who told the Financial Times there would be a “material drop” in mRNA vaccine efficiency with the omicron variant.
“All the scientists I’ve talked to,” Bancel said, “are like, ‘This is not going to be good.’”
RELATED: Moderna, Regeneron warn about the effectiveness of COVID-19 drugs, vaccines against the omicron variant
BioNTech and Pfizer quickly developed the world’s most prolific COVID-19 vaccine, distributing more than 2 billion doses of Comirnaty in less than a year.
Sahin said the companies had anticipated the emergence of a highly mutated variant but expected it to come along next year.
Omicron was first detected in South Africa and has since been observed in more than a dozen other countries globally. Last week, the World Health Organization classified omicron as a “variant of concern.”
“I believe in principle at a certain timepoint we will need a new vaccine against this new variant,” Sahin said. “The question is how urgent it needs to be available.”
Pfizer and BioNTech have said they could adapt a variant-specific vaccine within six weeks and ship batches within 100 days. Moderna said it could have a new vaccine available early next year, but Bancel said it would take several months for the new shot to be produced at scale.
RELATED: Pfizer, Moderna, J&J and AstraZeneca assess omicron’s effect on their COVID-19 vaccines
Among the questions posed by the new variant is how transmissible it is. BioNTech says it’s impossible to know this early in its progression.
“This is something we have to learn with the passage of time,” Ozlem Tureci, BioNTech’s chief medical officer said at the Reuters conference. “I mean in the daily, weekly horizon and experts are monitoring that closely.”
Credit: Source link