BioNTech Chief Executive Ugur Sahin said his company would be open to cooperating with others as it looks to increase production capacity for its COVID-19 vaccine developed with Pfizer and was considering opening an office in Turkey.
Sahin repeated BioNTech aimed to distribute 1.3 billion doses of its vaccine by the end of 2021 and that 70 percent of the world needed to be vaccinated by next winter to go back to "normal life", according to an interview with Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency.
"We want to produce more than 1 billion doses with Pfizer next year. We need to distribute them to over 80 countries," he was cited as saying. "This is not easy. Vaccines are made in a complex manner. We will start cooperating with other companies again," he added.
"If we can carry out our plans on how to increase capacity, we can disclose it in January or February. I believe we can increase it. We don't have a guaranteed plan yet."
Ankara has agreed to buy 4.5 million doses of the BioNTech and Pfizer vaccine, with an option to procure 30 million more doses later.
Frequently Asked Questions
A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.
There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.
Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.
Sahin, the son of a Turkish immigrant to Germany, told Anadolu BioNTech was in talks with Turkey's state scientific agency Tubitak, and would aim to deliver the 30 million doses to the country by the end of 2021.
"It is a great joy to be able to help people in Turkey," Sahin was quoted as saying by Anadolu.
"We also want to carry out research in Turkey. We have talks with Tubitak, we have started working with some professors at universities. We want to open a branch of the BioNTech company in Turkey," he said, adding he hoped to start clinical work on cancer research in the country in the summer of 2021.
Turkey has also agreed to buy 50 million doses of China's Sinovac vaccine, CoronaVac, and a first shipment of 3 million doses of CoronaVac arrives on Monday.Follow our full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here.