- The scientist behind the promising Pfizer coronavirus vaccine with over 90% effectiveness says the drug can end the pandemic.
- BioNTech CEO Uğur Şahin explained in an interview that vaccine protection against symptomatic infections “will have a dramatic effect” on the health crisis.
- Several experts have already explained that eradicating COVID-19 completely seems unlikely, but vaccines will help end the pandemic and turn the new coronavirus into an endemic disease, such as the flu.
Pfizer may have all the glory in the United States. But the coronavirus vaccine the company announced is over 90% effective against the pathogen was not actually created by Pfizer. A German company called BioNTec developed the mRNA vaccine, which was an industry first when it was first developed. And now that the drug BioNTech has shown incredible effectiveness according to interim data, BioNTech CEO Uğur Şahin believes the drug has the potential to end the pandemic.
SARS-CoV-2 is the virus that causes COVID-19, and it’s unlikely to go away anytime soon. The idea of eradicating it is only theoretical. This is something we have heard time and time again from experts in the field, including Dr Anthony Fauci and representatives of the World Health Organization. Factors such as the infectivity of the virus, mutations, the unknown efficacy of vaccines, the gradual roll-out of vaccines, the main logistical obstacles, public resistance to vaccination and limited immunity against coronaviruses make eradication practically impossible. And if the world ever reaches that point, it will take many years for vaccines to improve and enough people to receive COVID-19 vaccines on a regular basis. But eradication isn’t necessary to end the pandemic – and Şahin says the Pfizer / BioNTech drug can help the world do just that.
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“If the question is whether we can stop this pandemic with this vaccine, then my answer is: yes, because I believe that even protection only against symptomatic infections will have a dramatic effect,” said Ahin The Guardian in an interview.
The scientist said he was not sure until Monday that the vaccine would trigger a strong enough reaction. “It was possible that the virus was not really targeted by the vaccine, found its way into cells and continued to make people sick. We now know that vaccines can beat this virus. ”
Once full data from Pfizer’s Phase 3 trial becomes available, both companies will achieve better results that include a final efficacy rate. However, not all questions will be answered immediately. It may take a year for companies to determine if the vaccine can stop asymptomatic infections or even effectively block infection. Şahin explained that once the virus reaches the body, it works “in several ways.”
“The vaccine prevents Covid-19 from accessing our cells. But even if the virus does manage to find a way in, the T cells hit it on the head and kill it, ”he said. “We trained the immune system very well to perfect both of these defensive movements. We now know that the virus cannot defend itself against these mechanisms. ”
Even if infected, the vaccine would elicit a faster response and patients should be less likely to develop severe symptoms. This is the goal of the first wave of vaccines, according to Dr Fauci.
The German scientist also discussed the speed of development of mRNA vaccines. The fact that the method uses the genetic code of the virus shortened the production process by almost three months. Pfizer’s involvement brought expertise and resources that further streamlined the development process, reducing it to 10 months instead of years. “There was virtually no waiting time,” he says. “Imagine you wanted to go from one end of London to the other and there were traffic jams everywhere. You would need half a day. For our project, the streets were empty.
Şahin also dispelled the idea that Pfizer and BioNTech withheld vaccine data from the American public and waited to release it until the end of the presidential election, which President Trump claimed on Twitter earlier. this week. He said he learned the news from Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla on Monday, a day before companies announced it to the world. Bourla himself received the interim results a few minutes before calling Şahin in Germany.
On coronavirus immunity, the CEO of BioNTech said people vaccinated with hops would be immune to the disease for at least a year, although it is still too early to draw any real conclusions. “For the moment we only have indirect clues [regarding the duration of immunity], ” he said. “Studies on Covid-19 patients have shown that those with a strong immune response still have this response after six months. I could imagine we could be safe for at least a year. The expert also recognized that people might need to “supplement” with annual vaccines.
Pfizer and BioNTech are just two of hundreds of teams developing coronavirus vaccines. The more drugs approved, the easier it will be for more countries to access them – and the sooner the pandemic will end. When enough people get vaccinated with the drugs approved by regulators and enough people develop immunity after infection or vaccination, health officials will declare the pandemic over. Once that happens, COVID-19 will likely become rampant and much less deadly, just like the flu.