BioNTech Chief says COVID-19 vaccine could mean “normal winter” next year

pharmafile | November 16, 2020 | News story | Research and Development, Sales and Marketing BioNTech, COVID-19, Pfizer, Vaccine 

The advent of an effective vaccine could mean a return to normalcy by next winter, argues Professor Uğur Şahin, Professor of Oncology at the University of Mainz and Chief Executive and Co-Founder of BioNTech, the biotech firm that is partnered with Pfizer in the development of a COVID-19 vaccine candidate which recently demonstrated an efficacy of over 90% in Phase 3 clinical trials.

The pair of companies is now taking steps to roll out the candidate to countries around the world before the end of the year, should they be successful in securing international regulatory approval. But the real impact of a vaccine isn’t likely to be felt until sometime next year.  

Şahin told the BBC’s The Andrew Marr Show: “We will not have a big impact on the infection numbers with our vaccine this winter. If everything continues to go well, we will start to deliver the vaccine at the end of this year, beginning of next year.

“Our goal is to deliver more than 300 million vaccine doses until April next year, which could allow us to only start to make an impact,” he added.

“The bigger impact will happen until summer. Summer will help us anyway, because the infection rate will go down in summer, and what is absolutely essential is that we get a high vaccination rate until, or before, autumn/winter next year.

“So that means all the immunisation vaccination approaches must be accomplished before next autumn,” he continued. “And I’m confident that this will happen because there are a number of vaccine companies helping us to increase the supply, and so we could have a normal winter next year.”  

However, there are concerns that a waning faith in scientists and growing anti-vaccine sentiment could provide a considerable obstacle in achieving sufficient inoculation rates among the public to adequately contain the virus.

To this, Şahin told Business Insider that while this is a legitimate concern, the priority should be protecting the vulnerable: “As soon as the vaccine has been permitted, I will be one of the first to do it. But first we have to make sure that the vaccine arrives with those people who need it urgently: especially the elderly, people with pre-existing conditions and medical staff.”

The UK is expected to do just that – the 10 million doses it is due to receive by the end of the year as part of a signed partnership are expected to be given to residents and staff in care homes, followed by over-80s and healthcare staff. The country is also entitled to receive a further 30 million doses of the vaccine next year.

Matt Fellows

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