Omikron worries: BioNTech rejects Moderna

Status: 01.12.2021 8:51 a.m.

While Moderna boss Stéphane Bancel had open doubts about the effectiveness of the current mRNA vaccines against the omicron variant, BioNTech boss Ugur Sahin is much more optimistic.

BioNTech boss Ugur Sahin expects that the existing Covid-19 vaccine from the Mainz-based manufacturer and its partner Pfizer can also protect against serious disease courses with the new Omikron variant. After all, Omikron is not the first Corona variant that has emerged, said Sahin yesterday evening in Mainz before a prize was awarded to him and his wife.

The third vaccination is what counts

“We think it is likely that those who have been vaccinated will have significant protection against serious illnesses caused by Omikron,” Sahin told Reuters. “We assume that this protection will be even more pronounced when people have had their third vaccination.”

Sahin had previously made a similar statement in the “Wall Street Journal”: Nobody should lose their nerve because of Omikron, rather it is now a matter of giving everyone booster vaccinations as quickly as possible.

New BioNTech vaccine in development phase

Sahin told the Wall Street Journal that after vaccination, the body produces antibodies and T-cells that are used for immune defense. If the variant is better at outsmarting the antibodies, the T cells still remain as protection against severe disease. It is hard to imagine that one variant could override both protective mechanisms.

Nonetheless, in addition to the ongoing laboratory tests to examine the new Corona variant, the Mainz vaccine manufacturer is also working on the development of an adapted vaccine – as a preventative measure in the event that it might become necessary. First interim results are not yet available, said the company boss.

Panic sales according to Moderna statements

The almost relaxed statements of the BioNTech boss stand in clear contrast to the most recent statements by Stéphane Bancel. The head of the US pharmaceutical company Moderna yesterday alarmed the global stock markets with skeptical remarks and triggered panic selling. Investors feared that because of Omikron, massive restrictions on economic life could again threaten. The DAX lost 1.2 percent to 15,100 points.

Bancel had told the “Financial Times” that because of the many mutations in the Omicron variant, scientists assumed a “considerable decrease” in the protective effect. “I think it’s going to be a significant drop. I just don’t know how much because we’re going to have to wait for the data. But all the scientists I’ve spoken to are of the opinion, ‘This is not going to be good’.”

A matter of weeks – or months

His company has already started work on a revised vaccine, Bancel said. But it will be months before producers can produce enough customized vaccines.

The fact is: In just under two weeks there should be more clarity regarding the effectiveness of the existing vaccines of both companies – Moderna and BioNTech. According to EMA director Emer Cooke, it will take two weeks to gain clues as to whether the current Covid-19 vaccines can cope with the variant.

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