The BioNTech/Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine – one of the most preferred jabs in Asia – is likely to offer strong protection against any severe disease from the new Omicron virus variant, BioNTech’s chief executive said.
Laboratory tests are underway to analyse the blood of people who had two or three doses of BioNTech’s Comirnaty vaccine to see if antibodies found in that blood inactivate Omicron, shedding light on whether new vaccines are needed.
He specified severe disease as requiring hospital or intensive care.
Sahin added he expects the lab tests to show some loss of vaccine protection against mild and moderate disease due to Omicron, but said the extent of that loss was hard to predict.
He said the German biotech company is speedily working on an upgraded version of its vaccine, of which well over 2 billion doses have been delivered, although it remains unclear whether that is needed, he added.
Manufacturing Hub in Singapore
The shot, produced in collaboration with US-based Pfizer, has proved more popular than rival jabs in Japan, South Korea, the Philippines and Hong Kong, while China has approved the jab as a booster shot.
The company is building a manufacturing hub in Singapore.
Researchers at BioNTech are using a pseudovirus — a virus engineered to look like the new strain — with the aim of discovering how effective the vaccines are.
Sahin said getting a third vaccine shot known as a booster was likely to add protection against Omicron infections of any severity compared with those with just a two-shot course.
“To my mind there’s no reason to be particularly worried. The only thing that worries me at the moment is the fact that there are people that have not been vaccinated at all,” he said.
BioNTech has become a stockmarket darling in its native Germany. The company posted profits of 3.2 billion euro in the third quarter – about twice as high as the profits of Linde, the largest DAX-listed group by market capitalisation.
The figures are all the more impressive when compared with other companies listed in the benchmark index. Adidas and Continental, for example, reported bottom-line gains of €530 million and €410 million respectively.
- Reuters with additional editing by George Russell