As panic strikes with the news of a new variant of COVID-19, which was detected in the UK, there's some good news coming from pharma giant BioNTech. The German pharmaceutical company is confident that its vaccine for coronavirus will work effectively against the new variant of COVID strain reported in Britain.
BioNTech is basing its confidence on the fact that the proteins on the UK variant are 99 percent similar on the prevailing strains, which is why the vaccine will be effective.
"Scientifically, it is highly likely that the immune response by this vaccine also can deal with the new virus variant. We don't know at the moment if our vaccine is also able to provide protection against this new variant," said Ugur Sahin, the co-founder of BioNTech, expressing a hint of caution.
New vaccine for mutated strain
Sahin also noted that there will be certainty once the experiment is conducted, but it will be two weeks at least to gather necessary data. Even so, the likelihood that the vaccine would work "is relatively high," Sahin noted.
BioNTech is confident that the vaccine for the new strain of COVID-19 could be ready within 6 weeks.
"In principle the beauty of the messenger technology is that we can directly start to engineer a vaccine which completely mimics this new mutation — we could be able to provide a new vaccine technically within six weeks," Sahin said, according to AFP.
Scientists believe the new virus strain is 70 percent more infectious than the original strain. So far, over 1,100 cases of new COVID variant have been reported by Public Health England. As a result of this, several countries have cut off travel ties with the UK, including India. Outside of the UK, cases of the new variant have been reported in Denmark, Italy, Gibraltar, the Netherlands, and Australia.
Besides BioNTech, Moderna is also testing its COVID vaccine to see if it works effectively against the mutated version of coronavirus. "Based on the data to date, we expect that the Moderna vaccine-induced immunity would be protective against the variants recently described in the UK. We will be performing additional tests in the coming weeks to confirm this expectation," Moderna said in a statement.
BioNTech and Pfizer have jointly been working on a vaccine against COVID-19, which has been approved for emergency use in more than 45 countries around the world, including Britain, UK and the European Union.