In a statement, BioNTech CEO Urgul Sahin expressed concern that three doses of the Covid vaccine would be insufficient to prevent the rapid transmission of the highly transmissible Omicron variant of Covid.
According to Business Standard, World Health Organization disclosed that around 90 countries have been infected by the variant, known to evade vaccine immunity.
“We must be aware that even triple-vaccinated are likely to transmit the disease. It is obvious we are far from 95 percent effectiveness that we obtained against the initial virus,” Sahin told Le Monde, according to Euronews. In collaboration with US pharmaceutical company Pfizer, BioNTech developed the revolutionary two-dose Covid jab.
The data from the UK and South Africa, however, offers reassuring information despite their development, Sahin noted.
Two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine reduced the risk of hospitalization by 70% in South Africa, where Omicron was first reported. Scientists in Israel have also concluded that booster doses of the vaccine protect against Omicron.
“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,” explained the immunologist from Germany.
Covid-19 testing, similarly to other protective measures, including the use of masks, is important for the elderly as well as during the winter, Sahin said, “otherwise we will not be able to control the rapid expansion of this new variant.”
A coronavirus vaccine is already being developed by the German company using Omicron’s spike protein and 32 mutations as the antigen. This is expected to be ready by March, the report says.
“We remain on track with our 100-day target, which means we should be able to deliver our first suitable vaccines to Omicron in March, subject to regulatory approval,” he announced.
Nonetheless, these new vaccines have raised concerns among some researchers. Instead of boosting new immune defenses, they might boost insufficient ones at risk
“This principle is an unproven hypothesis. Personally, I don’t think this is a real problem. The immune system has high adaptability and plasticity, and should be able to activate both, strengthening existing immune responses while generating new antibodies,” Sahin explained, “but we will obviously have to assess it.”
Scientists at WHO also predicts that Omicron will soon overtake Delta due to its “substantial growth advantage.” But how effective vaccinations against the new variant remain unspecific, the WHO reported.
A booster dose of Moderna’s Omicron vaccine, which is also made from mRNA, proved to be protective on Monday when it announced that this vaccine had also produced protection against Omicron.
Researchers at Moderna have found that the current booster dose of its vaccine, 50 micrograms, increases antibody levels 37-fold compared with two doses.
In addition, it said 100 micrograms of the compound boosted antibody levels by 83-fold.