As fresh restrictions and worries spread around the world over a new COVID-19 variant first discovered in the UK, the people behind the foremost vaccine have now spoken out.
With scientists still scrambling to understand this latest variant that has left the United Kingdom isolated from the rest of the world virtually overnight, BioNTech Chief Executive Ugur Sahin has quelled fears over the vaccine being ineffective.
“Our vaccine will likely work for mutated coronavirus variants,” Sahin told DW News in an interview this morning. “Scientifically, the likelihood is high. Even though this new variant has multiple mutations, only one percent of this protein is changed. And that means 99 percent are still the same.”
Sahin went on to say that the company needed two weeks to fully determine whether the vaccine can truly inactivate this new strain… but should it not, a tweak would only be six weeks away.
“I am confident that if there is a need for a change, that the technology that we are using, the messenger RNA technology, could deliver the change,” he said, pointing at a lengthier approval process more than anything. “We have to discuss with the authorities whether they would accept such a change of the vaccine. This is a scientific and medical discussion.”
Earlier this week, Malta joined many countries in suspending all flights to and from the UK after the new COVID-19 strain was dedected over the weekend.
Maltese citizens and residents of Malta that are in the UK will be allowed to return to the country, but they will be subject to a rapid test upon their arrival and be forced into a 14-day mandatory quarantine.
Meanwhile, the first batch of 10,000 BioNTech-Pfizer vaccines are set to land in Malta this Saturday, with innoculations starting the next morning. More batches should arrive in the thousands every following Monday.
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