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BioNTech CEO ‘confident’ vaccine works against new UK variant

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German pharmaceutical company BioNTech has “scientific confidence” that its coronavirus vaccine works against the new UK variant, but further studies are need to be completely sure, its CEO, Ugur Sahin said on Tuesday.

“We don’t know at the moment if our vaccine is also able to provide protection against this new variant,” Sahin told a news conference, adding that “scientifically, it is highly likely that the immune response by this vaccine also can deal with the new virus variants.”

The new variant was detected mainly in London and according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), it is believed to have originated in southeast England. According to the country’s chief medical officer, Chris Whitty, the variant contains 23 changes, including 17 key “non-synonymous” mutations. Its appearance has sparked fears worldwide, with scientists estimating it could be up to 70% more effective at spreading than others.

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Sahin also said it will take about to weeks to get the data on the effectiveness of the vaccine against the new variant, and if a new vaccine is needed, the company could have it ready “technically within six weeks.”

His comments came a day after the EU’s medicines watchdog, the European Medicines Agency (EMA), greenlighted the COVID-19 vaccine candidate developed by US drugmaker Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, which later in the day also got the formal approval by the European Commission.

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