Coronavirus: 50 mln vaccines could be ready in 2020, immunity up to one year

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BioNTECH plans to provide 50 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine developed with Pfizer by the end of the year, Chief Executive Officer Ugur Sahin told Al Arabiya on Thursday, adding that he believes immunity could last for one year.

“Our goal is to make up to 50 million vaccine doses available this year and up to 1.3 billion doses together with our partner Pfizer in the next year,” Sahin said.

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The companies are currently in talks about distribution with 30 governments around the world, according to Sahin, who also pointed out that it is crucial for countries to pre-order the vaccine in order to work out the logistics.

“Pre-orders are important because we have to work on the logistical chain for transportation and distribution – this is not an easy task because this must be coordinated,” Sahin said.

The CEO also said even though the partner companies have applied for approval in several countries including the US, Canada, United Kingdom and China, he doesn’t expect approvals for supplying vaccines to be issued before mid-December.

“This takes time,” he said. “If we get approval from [Europe] or the US, we will continue to apply in other regions of the world to ensure we can supply the vaccine wherever it is needed.”

Sahin told Al Arabiya that everyone is working at maximum capacity, but “quality requires time.” He also said producing enough supply for the entire population will require the participation and collaboration of other pharmaceutical companies such as AstraZeneca.

Immunity could last up to one year

In order to be effective, two doses of the vaccine must be given to individuals, with the second dose being 22 days after the first dose.

Preliminary trial data showed that immunity developed from the vaccine lasts for at least three months. Experts are waiting for further data by July 2021 to show whether immunity could last up to six months or one year. However, Sahin said he personally expects immunity could last for one year.

“I personally expect that the vaccine will have a strong immune response also after one year, so it could be that after one year a vaccinated [person] would need an additional vaccination that would not be harmful but if the immune response is, even after one year, very strong we can wait longer,” he said.

More than 40,000 people are enrolled in the clinical studies that have been taking place in the United States and five other countries since July.

Sahin said about 15 percent of the participants showed mild to moderate side effects, including a fever that lasted one to two days.

“This is a normal side effect profile for a vaccine,” the CEO said, adding that there was no need to pause the trial since no serious side effects developed.

The company expects to learn more in three weeks about how the vaccine protects the elderly and younger people. The CEO added that the company has already started vaccinating children between the ages of 12 and 16 as part of the trial.

There are also plans to vaccinate children under the age of 12, according to Sahin, as the company continues to collect more safety data for up to two years of the study.

“We are now in discussion in Europe and the United States to identify the time to start vaccinations for children of a younger age of 5-12 and from 3-5 years of age,” Sahin said, adding that details can be expected within “the coming weeks.”

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