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BioNTech says 'no evidence' its jabs need adapting for variants

BioNTech chief executive Ugur Sahin had said in April that the vaccine works against the Indian variant.

May 10, 2021 / 05:59 PM IST

German firm BioNTech said Monday that the COVID-19 vaccine it developed with Pfizer does not require any modifications at the moment to protect against variants of the virus.

"To date, there is no evidence that an adaptation of BioNTech's current COVID-19 vaccine against key identified emerging variants is necessary," the company said in a statement.

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Nevertheless, in preparations for a need at some point to make tweaks to its current vaccine, the company said it began tests in March on a "modified, variant-specific version" of its jabs.

Also read: India's COVID-19 deaths may touch 1 million by August, govt responsible for 'self-inflicted national catastrophe': Lancet

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COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

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.

How many types of vaccines are there?

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.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

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.

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"The aim of this study is to explore the regulatory pathway that BioNTech and Pfizer would pursue if SARS-CoV-2 were to change enough to require an updated vaccine," it said.

An assessment is also ongoing on the impact of a possible third dose in prolonging immunity and in protecting against variants.

Also Read: Mucormycosis fungal infections maiming COVID-19 survivors in India: All you need to know about this 'black fungus'

BioNTech chief executive Ugur Sahin had said in April that the vaccine works against the Indian variant.

The BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine was the first to win authorisation in the West, and has since been deployed in dozens of countries worldwide.

It is now supplying more than 90 countries worldwide, and is expecting to ramp up its production to up to three billion doses by the end of the year from 2.5 billion doses expected previously.

Follow our full coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here.
AFP
first published: May 10, 2021 05:57 pm

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