BioNTech's CEO said there's a 'relatively high' possibility the vaccine they made with Pfizer will protect against the UK's new coronavirus variant

·3 min read

An Ohio State employee receives a Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccination. AP Photo/Jay LaPrete

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  • BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin, whose company is Pfizer's vaccine partner in Europe, told reporters on Tuesday that the "likelihood" their shot would work with regards to the UK variant was "relatively high," the Associated Press reported.

  • Sahin noted that "we don't know at the moment if our vaccine is also able to provide protection against this new variant," and it will take up to two weeks to get data from the experiment to learn about the vaccine's efficacy.

  • Parts of the UK went into stricter lockdown last weekend after learning a new variant of the coronavirus could be up to 70% more transmissible.

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The CEO of BioNTech, the German pharmaceutical company that partnered with Pfizer to develop the first COVID-19 vaccine authorized for emergency use, is confident their shot can deal with the new strain of the coronavirus identified in the UK.

BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin told reporters on Tuesday "it is highly likely that the immune response by this vaccine also can deal with the new virus variants," the Associated Press reported.

Sahin said they're currently conducting experiments to confirm this, and should get results in the next two weeks.

He added the "likelihood" their vaccine will work on the UK variant was "relatively high," according to the AP, because the proteins on the new strain, which are what the vaccine targets, are 99% similar to the other strains.

Read more: How the pharma giant Pfizer teamed up with a little-known biotech to develop the first authorized coronavirus vaccine in record time

On Sunday, parts of the UK went into stricter lockdown after learning the new strain could be up to 70% more transmissible, Business Insider's Joshua Zitser reported. Since then, several countries including Denmark, Ireland, Belgium, and Israel have restricted incoming travel from the UK.

Dr. Scott Gottlieb, the former head of the FDA, said on Monday that he thought the new variant "is already in the US," so a travel ban against the UK wouldn't be effective. Dr. Anthony Fauci agreed the new strain was probably already in the US.

The emergence of the new strain underlines what experts have been saying for months - we'll probably have to get yearly COVID-19 vaccines just like we get different flu shots every year to combat new strains as they emerge.

As Business Insider's Dr. Catherine Schuster-Bruce reported, medical experts have said the coronavirus vaccines will likely work against the new variants.

"We don't have any particular reason to think that immunizing with the present vaccines is going to be less effective against the different variants that are circulating," one professor of pediatrics at the University of Bristol said on Monday.

Meanwhile, the first vaccines from Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are being distributed across the US following the Food and Drug Administration's emergency use authorizations this month.

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