COVID-19 vaccines will not be enough to withstand the Omicron variant, warned the CEO of BioNTech, the German company behind the mRNA vaccine produced with Pfizer.
By Pascale Davies • Updated: 20/12/2021
"We must be aware that even triple-vaccinated are likely to transmit the disease…It is obvious we are far from 95 per cent effectiveness that we obtained against the initial virus," Ugur Sahin told the French daily Le Monde in an interview published on Monday.
Despite this, Sahin said early data from Britain and South Africa is providing us with “reassuring information”.
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The latest research from South Africa, where Omicron was first reported, suggested that two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine offered 70 per cent effectiveness in reducing the risk of hospitalisation.
“There will be a loss of effectiveness against Omicron over time, it's very likely, but it's still to be measured how quickly. I will not base predictions on preliminary laboratory data but on real-life data, which is much more appropriate,” the German immunologist said.
Sahin said testing for COVID-19 is important, especially for the elderly and during winter, as are other protective measures such as mask-wearing, adding, “otherwise we will not be able to control the rapid expansion of this new variant.”
The German company is already designing a coronavirus vaccine adapted to the new variant, using Omicron’s spike protein and its 32 mutations as an antigen. Sahin announced this should be ready by March.