BioNTech co-founder says its Covid-19 vaccine 'highly likely' works against British variant

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BERLIN (AFP) - The co-founder of BioNTech said on Tuesday (Dec 22) it was "highly likely" that its vaccine against the coronavirus works against the mutated strain detected in Britain, but it could also adapt the vaccine if necessary in six weeks.

"Scientifically, it is highly likely that the immune response by this vaccine also can deal with the new virus variant," said Dr Ugur Sahin.

But if needed, "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".

Dr Sahin said the variant detected in Britain has nine mutations, rather than just one as is usually common.

Nevertheless, he voiced confidence that the vaccine developed with Pfizer would be efficient because it "contains more than 1,000 amino acids, and only nine of them have changed, so that means 99 per cent of the protein is still the same".

He said tests are being run on the variant, with results expected in two weeks.

"We have scientific confidence that the vaccine might protect but we will only know it if the experiment is done... We will publish the data as soon as possible," he added.

Separately, Pfizer and Moderna are also testing their Covid-19 vaccines against the new strain, CNN reported on Tuesday.

Moderna expects immunity from its vaccine to protect against the variants and is performing more tests in the coming weeks to confirm, the company said in a statement to CNN.

Pfizer said it is "generating data" on how well blood samples from people immunised with its vaccine "may be able to neutralise the new strain from the UK," according to the report.

Pfizer and Moderna did not immediately respond to Reuters' requests for comment.

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