The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine could be adjusted to better combat the new variant of the Coronavirus, BioNTech’s CEO Ugur Sahin told CNN’s Fred Pleitgen in an interview on Tuesday.
"We should not forget that we have still the opportunity, if required, to adjust the vaccine exactly to this new virus variant, if this is needed," Sahin said.
"I don't think that this is needed. But if it would be needed, there's a technical possibility to do that."
Sahin told CNN that BioNTech is currently evaluating how effective the vaccine is against the recently discovered variant of the virus, which has caused dozens of countries to shut down travel to the United Kingdom. Sahin said he has "scientific confidence" that the vaccine will still work.
"There's a high likelihood that the vaccine response will be able also to inactivate this virus, because you have to consider that even though nine amino acids are changed in this protein, 99 percent of the protein is not changed," Sahin said, adding that BioNTech has already detected part of the immune response was not affected by the mutation.
"What we already did is we evaluated the sites where we have observed T cell responses against spike protein, and we see that almost all sites that we have seen T cell responses are still conserved. And so that is a good message. That means at least one component of the immune system will not be affected by this mutation," Sahin added.
On Monday Pfizer/BioNTech received approval for their vaccine from the EU’s regulatory body, the European Medicines Agency. Sahin told CNN the vaccine would be rolled out ASAP and that the companies are already working on ways to speed up production.
"We are evaluating if we could intensify the production at the Pfizer sites and intensify the production at the Mainz sites. So there are multiple things, which are ongoing."
Watch CNN's interview with BioNTech CEO: