BioNTech chief warns of next generation Covid strain with new jabs in pipeline

Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccines approved for booster scheme

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COVID-19 could mutate into a new strain labelled as the ‘next generation’ by the BioNTech chief, who states a new ‘tailored’ vaccine may be needed by 2022 to fight the virus. Ugur Sahin, BioNTech chief executive officer, told the Financial Times COVID-19 variants such as the Delta strain were more contagious, but could be contained by using booster shots of the current available vaccines.

However, he added that mutations could emerge which may skip past the bodies current vaccine-acquired immune defences.

In his interview, Mr Sahin said: “This year, a different vaccine is completely unneeded. But by mid-next year, it could be a different situation.”

Suggesting the virus is potentially with us for the long term, he said: “The virus will stay, and the virus will further adapt.”

In light of any potential new viruses emerging, he went on to say: “We have no reason to assume that the next-generation virus will be easier to handle for the immune system than the existing generation. This is a continuous evolution, and that evolution has just started.”

The CEO went on to suggest that vaccination programmes will feature two main streams by next year, with booster shots for those already inoculated, and continued campaign to get the vaccines to those who have had minimal access to them thus far.

According to Our World in Data, currently only 45.7 percent of the world population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.

In total, 6.33 billion doses have been administered globally, and 26.6 million are now being given each day.

However, only 2.3 percent of people in low income countries have received at least one dose.

Many of the big pharmacological companies, including BioNTech and Pfizer, have been placed under pressure to share their information, patents and technology to a wider range of producers in order to allow a more global and efficient form of distribution.

While BioNTech chief Mr Sahin claimed patent-sharing posed no risk to quality control, the CEO of Pfizer Albert Bourla has argued heavily argued that waiving intellectual property rights would disincentivise innovation.

Many people have accused large pharma companies of ‘war-profiteering’, including Dr. Tom Frieden from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

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In a Tweet, Dr. Frieden said: “If hey fail to transfer technology, millions of people could die from Covid avoidably, more dangerous variants could emerge, and Pfizer and Moderna will be responsible for these deaths.”

With the costs and profits of the vaccines under scrutiny, Mr Sahin of BioNTech declined to forecast how the Pfizer vaccine would be priced in the future.

Recent studies have now been conducted that suggest fully vaccinated recipients of the two-shot Pfizer vaccine lose the efficacy of the antibodies after about six months.

Noting the drop in antibody levels by ‘nearly 10 fold’ in seven months, the study’s authors told Reuters the findings suggested booster shots should be given around ‘six to seven months’ after initial immunisation.

So far, the COVID-19 pandemic has infected over 219 million people worldwide, claiming the lives of over 4.55 million in process.

Most of the deaths have been recorded n the United States, India, Brazil and the United Kingdom.

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