BERLIN (AP) – Europe could achieve herd immunity against coronavirus in the next four months, said the head of German pharmaceutical company BioNTech, which together with its US partner Pfizer developed the first distribution vaccine against COVID-19. massive.
Although the exact threshold required to reach that level of immunization remains a matter of debate, experts believe that exceeding 70% would significantly slow down the spread of coronavirus in a population.
“Europe will achieve herd immunity in July, August at the latest,” Ugur Sahin, CEO of BioNTech, told reporters.
Your company’s vaccine accounts for a large portion of the doses delivered in Europe and North America, where it is commonly referred to as the Pfizer vaccine.
Data from people who have received the injections show that the immune response weakens over time and that a third dose will likely be required, Sahin reported.
Studies show that the effectiveness of the BioNTech / Pfizer vaccine drops from 95% to about 91% after six months, they reported.
“Consequently, we need a third injection to return the protection of the vaccine to almost 100%,” Sahin said.
Those currently vaccinated receive the second dose three weeks after the first, although some countries have longer intervals. Sahin suggested that this third round be applied between 9 and 12 months after the first.
“And then I figure that it is probably necessary to receive another reminder every year, or maybe every 18 months,” he reported.
Fears have been expressed that existing vaccines will be less effective against new variants of the virus now emerging in different parts of the world.
Sahin said BioNTech has tested its vaccine against more than 30 variants, including the now-dominant one that was first detected in Britain. He said that in the laboratory it was shown that the vaccine generates a good immune response against practically all variants. In cases where the immune response was weaker, it was still sufficient, he added without providing exact numbers.
Asked about the new variant first detected in India, Sahin said that the effectiveness of the vaccine against it is still being investigated.
“But the Indian variant has mutations that we had previously investigated and against which our vaccine also works, so I am confident with that as well,” he said.
The Mainz-based company’s work on developing a vaccine based on messenger RNA, or mRNA, has benefited from previous research by pharmaceutical firms to treat cancer, as tumors often try to adapt to evade the immune system. Sahin reported.
“The way our vaccine works is that it has two attack points,” he explained. In addition to stimulating the production of antibodies, it causes the body’s so-called T cells to attack the virus, he said.
“The vaccine is developed with great intelligence and the ship will hold. I am convinced of that, ”Sahin said. “If the ship is to be strengthened again, we will do so. I am not worried”.