»More worried about unvaccinated people«: Biontech boss Ugur Sahin at an award ceremony
Photo: via www.imago-images.de / imago images / Political-Moments
Biontech boss Uğur Şahin expects that the existing Covid-19 vaccine from the Mainz-based manufacturer will also offer protection against serious diseases with the new Omikron variant.
"We think it is likely that vaccinated people will have clear protection against serious illnesses caused by Omikron," said Şahin of the Reuters news agency.
"We assume that this protection is even more pronounced when the people have had their third vaccination."
However, certainty about the effectiveness of the vaccine against the new variant can only be obtained after evaluating the laboratory data and following infection data from the real world.
Şahin expects more clarity in about two weeks.
"We expect that the protection against infections can be reduced to a certain extent, but how strong we have to see." So far there is no evidence that infections with Omikron were more severe.
However, it is not yet known whether the virus is more infectious and spreads faster than the current Delta variant.
“From my point of view, there is no reason to be particularly concerned.
The only thing that worries me at the moment is that there are people who have not yet been vaccinated. "
Mainly mutations on the spike protein
Earlier this day, the head of the US vaccine manufacturer Moderna, Stéphane Bancel, had spoken of a "considerable decrease" in the protective effect of his company's vaccine and thus temporarily sent the world's stock exchanges into decline because investors reacted unsettled.
Bancel said: "I think the effectiveness is in no way the same level as against the Delta variant."
He referred to information from scientists, according to which 32 of the 50 mutations found in Omikron affect the spike protein.
This protein on the surface of the virus is used by the vaccines to trigger an immune response against the coronavirus.
However, Bancel is unlikely to have any significantly different information about the Omikron variant than Biontech boss Şahin.
In Europe in particular, Omikron already seems to be in circulation.
In Scotland, six confirmed cases are believed to be the result of an in-country transmission rather than overseas travel.
In the Netherlands, the authorities detected the new pathogen in test samples that were around ten days old.
In these cases, it is so far unclear whether the infected were in southern Africa.
A man who tested positive for Omikron in Germany had already entered South Africa on November 21.
Statistics from South Africa suggest that the Omikron variant could be significantly more contagious than previous variants.
According to assessments by South African doctors, the course of the disease could generally be milder than with previous variants.
According to the WHO, no deaths related to the Omikron variant have been reported so far.
The vaccine manufacturers Moderna, Biontech and Pfizer as well as the supporters of the Russian vaccine Sputnik V, which has not yet been approved in the EU, have already announced that they will test their vaccines and, if necessary, develop a vaccine adapted to the Omikron variant. According to Moderna boss Bancel, however, this should take a few months.
WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus warned of an overreaction.
"I understand the concerns of all countries that want to protect their citizens against a variant that we do not fully understand," he said.
"But I am equally concerned about the blunt blanket measures of some states that are not based on evidence or are effective in themselves and will only worsen inequalities." Many countries, including the Federal Republic, have heavy air traffic with several states in southern Africa restricted to prevent the omicron variant from being introduced.
mamk / Reuters / AFP