The Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine will "bash the virus over the head" and end the spiraling pandemic, the billionaire scientist behind the companies' breakthrough says.
“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 from symptomatic infections will have a dramatic effect,” BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin told The Guardian.
Sahin's comments came after the companies announced the vaccine had proven to be more than 90% effective in trials. He said the treatment works because it attacks the novel coronavirus on several levels.
“The vaccine hinders COVID-19 from gaining access to our cells," Sahin said. "But even if the virus manages to find a way in, then the T-cells bash it over the head and eliminate it. We have trained the immune system very well to perfect these two defensive moves. We now know that the virus can’t defend itself against these mechanisms. We now know that vaccines can beat this virus."
It is not clear how long the vaccine, which requires two immunizations, will protect people from being infected. Sahin said he expects it will work for at least a year.
“We only have indirect clues so far [immunity duration]. Studies of COVID-19 patients have shown that those with a strong immune response still have that response after six months. I could imagine we could be safe for at least a year,” he told the Guardian.
He added that more research about the levels of protection the vaccine offers is expected to be released in about three weeks.
BioNTech, a German company, was founded in 2008 by Sahin and his wife, Ozlem Tureci, both Turkish immigrants, along with Austrian oncologist Christof Huber.
The vaccine was developed through the use of mRNA. Conventional vaccines take genetic information from a virus and cultivates it in a human cell, but mRNA uses the virus's genetic code, which shortens the production process by almost three months.
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