The scientist behind the world’s leading coronavirus vaccine has expressed confidence that next winter will be “normal”.
Ugur Sahin, chief executive of BioNTech, whose Covid-19 vaccine co-led by Pfizer has shown 90 per cent effectiveness, said the companies were aiming to distribute 300 million doses of their candidate by April.
He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr that the jab “will not make a big impact” on the current second wave, because mass-vaccinations will not take place until next year.
However, he stressed, if high vaccination rates are achieved by autumn 2021, “we could have a normal winter next year”.
#Marr: Will society be back to normal by spring 2021?
BioNTech founder Prof Uğur Şahin: "We can have a normal winter next year" if a high vaccination rate is achieved by autumn
— BBC Politics (@BBCPolitics) November 15, 2020
Professor Sahin told the Sunday breakfast programme: “If everything continues to go well, we will start to deliver the vaccine end of this year, beginning next year.”
Mr Sahin said the goal was to deliver hundreds of millions of doses by spring, which could “already start to make an impact”, with more notable effects seen during the summer.
He added: “What is absolutely essential is that we get a high vaccination rate before autumn/winter next year, so that means all the immunisation, vaccination approaches must be accomplished before next autumn.
“I’m confident that this will happen, because a number of vaccine companies have been asked to increase the supply, and so that we could have a normal winter next year.”
Preliminary analysis found that BioNTech andPfizer’s vaccine prevents more than 90 per cent of people from getting Covid-19.
More than 43,500 people took part in the international trials across six different countries.
The UK is set to receive 10 million doses by the end of the year, with a further 30 million doses already ordered. The vaccine is given in two doses, three weeks apart.
Recalling the moment he was told of their candidate’s effectiveness, Prof Sahin said it was “extremely relieving”.
He told Marr: “We now know that our vaccine works, and most likely other vaccines will also work.
“So this is really a message which not only changes how we develop vaccines, but also increases the likelihood that we will be able to get this pandemic under control.”
More than a week after the jab’s exciting preliminary results were unveiled, Prof Sahin said the jab was on track to be deployed on a wide scale, with participants showing no serious adverse reactions.
He said the “key side effects” seen so far were a mild to moderate pain in the injection site for a few days, while some of the participants had a mild to moderate fever for a similar period.
“We did not see any other serious side effects which would result in pausing or halting of the study,” he said.