The co-founder of the German pharmaceutical company BioNTech, Ugur Sahin, has assured that the vaccine against COVID-19 developed by his laboratory and distributed together with its American partner Pfizer will require a third dose 9 months after the second one (which is administered 21 days after the first one).
This he assured during a meeting with correspondents in Germany, in which he also expressed his confidence that this serum will also be “effective” against the Indian variant. “Our method is based on our experience gained against cancer. We have experimented with many variants and so far we have achieved good results with all of them,” said Sahin in a virtual meeting with journalists from foreign media in Germany.
“I am confident that we will also achieve good results with the Indian variant,” he added with regard to this mutation, which is much more aggressive than those previously detected.
So far, he insisted, his vaccine had shown its effectiveness “in practically all” known mutations.
Sahin, who heads BioNTech together with his wife and fellow scientist Özlem Türeci, warned that, in any case, the maximum effectiveness of his drug – 97% – is not reached until seven days after receiving the second dose. He also recalled that six months after this maximum immunity has been achieved through the second dose, it begins to decline.
According to his current estimates, this would imply that, between nine months and the following year, a third dose will probably have to be injected to guarantee the maintenance of maximum immunity.
“We have data indicating that at six months the protection is no longer 95% but 91%, and at eight months we see that the antibodies that produce the protection are clearly diminishing. That is why we need a third dose to bring protection back to close to 100%,” the researcher explained.
According to Sahin, “the third dose at 9 months, or at the latest after one year, can help protection as a booster vaccination”. The German doctor added that “probably” this vaccine will become an annual jab, like the seasonal flu vaccine.
Sahin was cautious about the release of restrictions for those vaccinated. It is clear that this is going to happen, since “we all hope to recover normality”, but “discrimination” between immunized citizens and those who are not must be avoided. “We must be very cautious and not fall into the so-called ‘culture of envy’,” he advised.
On the other hand, a study published Wednesday by the health authority in England, which concludes that a single dose of Pfizer or AstraZeneca’s covid-19 vaccine reduces transmission of the virus in the home environment by almost half.
People who were infected three weeks after receiving the first dose were 38% to 49% less likely to infect others in their household who had not been vaccinated, according to research by Public Health England (PHE), an advisory and support organization to the Department of Health.
The analysis also found protection against covid-19 14 days after vaccination at all ages. “Vaccines are vital to return to a normal life. Not only do vaccines reduce the severity of disease and prevent hundreds of deaths every day, we now see that they also have the impact of reducing the likelihood of passing covid-19 to others,” said Mary Ramsay, head of immunization at PHE.
Ramsay added that while this is “encouraging” data, it is important that people act as if they have the virus and maintain hygiene and social distance. PHE stressed that homes are high-risk places for transmission, so this study provides evidence on the impact of vaccines in reducing transmission.
In the United Kingdom, whose immunization scheme is carried out with preparations from Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna, 33.8 million people (50% of the population) have received the first of the two doses.