BioNTech says Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine likely to be effective against B1617 variant


ISTANBUL – BioNTech SE said on Thursday (May 20) the Covid-19 vaccine it developed with Pfizer should be roughly as effective against the new coronavirus variant first detected in India as it has been shown to be against the variant first detected in South Africa.

The company said in a statement Chief Executive Ugur Sahin felt encouraged by recent findings in a scientific paper based on blood analysis of vaccinated individuals, which showed that the antibodies elicited by the vaccine were able to neutralise the B1617 variant.

Since the blood tests on the variant that was first detected in South Africa had shown similar results, promising real-world data on the vaccine’s effectiveness against the variant of about 75 per cent led him to believe that its actual effectiveness against the variant first detected in India “might be in the same range”.

“So far we’ve had the chance to test our vaccine against more than 30 variants of the virus. It has proven effective against mutations so far,” Mr Sahin said earlier, speaking on Turkish television.

Mr Sahin, a German scientist with Turkish parents, spoke in Turkish after virtually attending the Turkish government’s science council meeting.

“We expect (our vaccine) to protect against infections by 70 per cent to 75 per cent,” he said on TV, in what the company later said was in reference to the variant first detected in South Africa and not directly to the variant first detected in India.

Since the concerning Covid-19 variant, known as B1617.2, was first identified in India, it has ravaged that country and spread to at least 26 nations out of the 53 in the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) European Region, the organisation said.

The WHO’s regional said on Thursday Covid-19 vaccines being deployed in Europe, including the Pfizer-BioNTech shot, appear able to protect against circulating virus variants that have caused concern because they are more easily transmitted.

Mr Sahin was speaking with Turkish Health Minister Fehrettin Koca, who separately said the country recorded less than 10,000 daily new coronavirus cases for the first time since March 1.

Turkey, which briefly was second globally last month in new infections, is using the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine as well as China’s Sinovac Biotech shot in its programme.

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