The scientist who helped develop the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine said a new version of the shot may be needed next year to protect against the virus.
Dr. Ugur Sahin, BioNTech’s co-founder and CEO, said that while booster shots are effective against current strains, including the contagious Delta variant, there may be mutations that evade it in the future.
“This year [a different vaccine] is completely unneeded. But by mid-next year, it could be a different situation,” Sahin told the Financial Times.
The company’s booster shot uses the same formula as its original two-dose vaccine.
But Sahin said next year could call for new formulas that are “tailored” to specifically target features of the new variants.
“This virus will stay, and the virus will further adapt,” he told the outlet. “We have no reason to assume that the next-generation virus will be easier to handle for the immune system than the existing generation. This is a continuous evolution, and that evolution has just started.”
BioNTech co-founder Dr. Ozlem Tureci, who is also Sahin’s wife, predicted last week that booster shots may be needed “every 12 to 18 months.”
“For all these variants which are currently circulating, it seems that boosters alone, bringing the waning immune responses back to high levels, are suitable and do protect,” Tureci told CNBC.
“However, we have to continue to screen because there might be variants upcoming for which this is not the case. And for this we have a second pillar, namely that we prepare ourselves to be quick and fast in the case that we need to adapt to a variant … And we are doing those dry runs, not alone, together with regulators, so that they are also prepared for the potential need to switch.”
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