BioNTech CEO says joint vaccine with Pfizer will likely work on new variant of UK virus

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BioNTech SE, a partner of Pfizer Inc., is pursuing all options to manufacture more doses of the Covid-19 vaccine than the 1.3 billion the companies have pledged to produce next year, according to the CEO of the German company.

Companies will likely know by January or February if and how many additional doses can be produced, Ugur Sahin said Monday evening in an interview. “I am convinced that we can increase the capacity of our network, but we do not have any figures yet.”

Sahin also said the vaccine will likely work against the new strain of SARS-CoV-2 that has emerged in the UK lab. Vaccine performance testing has already been done against 20 mutant versions; the same tests will now be run on the new UK version and are expected to take around two weeks, he said.

Efficiency results of over 90% and approvals around the world have sparked a race between countries for additional supplies of the precious projectiles, with the United States seeking to exercise a one hundred million option. Most of the doses planned for next year – enough to immunize 650 million people – have already been discussed.

More … than2 million peoplein six countries have already received their first injection of the standard two-dose schedule, according to data collected by Bloomberg.

BioNTech is looking for more raw materials it needs for its mRNA vaccine, more clean rooms and more cooperative partners, Sahin said. The company also needs the extra space to formulate the plans, put them in containers and prepare them for shipping, he said. Pfizer produces vaccines at three sites in the United States and one in Europe, while BioNTech has two manufacturing sites in Germany.

EU approval of the vaccine and an inoculation campaign slated to start on December 27 promise to continue to draw down stocks. By the end of 2020, BioNTech plans to ship 12.5 million doses to the EU and 20 million to the United States, the company said at a press conference on Tuesday. The partners have already started shipping injections to the UK, where Health Secretary Matt Hancock tweeted on Monday that some 500,000 people had received their first dose.

New stress tests

If the vaccine proves ineffective against the mutant strain circulating in the UK, BioNTech could, in theory, produce a new Covid vaccine to fight the variant within six weeks, Sahin said at Tuesday’s briefing. The speed with which the new inoculation could reach patients would depend on the speed of the regulatory review.

But so far Sahin sees no reason to doubt that the existing shot will be effective. Most vaccines target the spike protein, which allows the virus to enter cells.

“This virus has multiple mutations, but to our knowledge 99% of the spike protein is not mutated,” he said Monday evening. “Let’s do the experiment and get the result. It’s always the best answer, but I would just insist on staying calm.

– With the help of Riley Griffin and Iain Rogers.

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