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BioNTech jab likely effective against Omicron variant: CEO

FRANKFURTBioNTech and Pfizer's Covid-19 vaccine will likely offer strong protection against any severe disease from the new Omicron virus variant, BioNTech's chief executive told Reuters, as the company weighs the need to upgrade its commonly used shot.

Lab tests are under way over the next two weeks to analyse the blood of people who had two or three doses of BioNTech's Comirnaty vaccine to see if antibodies found in that blood inactivate Omicron, shedding light on whether new vaccines are needed.

"We think it is likely that people will have substantial protection against severe disease caused by Omicron," said BioNTech CEO and co-founder Ugur Sahin. He specified severe disease as requiring hospital or intensive care.

Dr Sahin added he expects the lab tests to show some loss of vaccine protection against mild and moderate disease due to Omicron, but the extent of that loss was hard to predict.

The company is speedily working on an upgraded version of its vaccine, of which well over two billion doses have been delivered, although it remains unclear whether that is needed, he added.

Dr Sahin said getting a third vaccine shot known as a booster will likely confer a layer of protection against Omicron infections of any severity compared with those with just a two-shot course.

BioNTech's guarded confidence contrasts with a sense of alarm conveyed by the CEO of rival vaccine maker Moderna, Mr Stephane Bancel.

He has raised the prospect of a drop in protection against the new coronavirus lineage from current vaccines. - REUTERS

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