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BioNTech Chief: Europe reaches herd immunity by August

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The head of the German pharmaceutical company BioNTech said Europe could achieve herd immunity against the coronavirus within the next four months.

The exact threshold required to reach that critical level of vaccination is still controversial, but experts say levels above 70% significantly impede the transmission of coronavirus within the population.

“Europe will reach herd immunity in July, by August at the latest,” BioNTech CEO Uğur Shahin told reporters.

His company’s vaccines make up the majority of the doses given in Europe and North America and are more commonly known as Pfizer Shot.

Sahin said data from people who received the vaccine showed that the immune response weakened over time and was likely to require a third injection.

Studies have shown that the efficacy of the BioNTech-Pfizer vaccine drops from 95% to about 91% after 6 months.

“Therefore, a third dose is needed to return vaccine protection to almost 100%,” Sahin said.

Although long intervals in some countries, vaccinated people are now receiving a second dose three weeks after the first injection. Sahin suggested that the third dose should be given 9-12 months after the first shot.

“And I’m hoping that I’ll probably need to get another booster every year, or maybe every 18 months,” he said.

According to Sahin, BioNTech has tested the vaccine against more than 30 variants, including the currently predominant one first detected in the UK, and the shots are good for almost all variants in the lab. It has been found to provoke an immune response. If the immune response is weak, he said it is sufficient without providing accurate numbers.

Asked about the first new variant detected in India, Sahin said the vaccine’s efficacy against it is still under investigation.

“But the Indian variants have the mutations we’ve investigated earlier, and our vaccine works against them, so I’m confident there,” he said.

The company’s messenger RNA or mRNA-based vaccine development work, based in Mainz, benefits from previous research on medicines to treat cancer, as tumors often seek to adapt to evade the immune system. Said Sahin.

“The way our vaccine works is that there are two points of attack,” he explained. In addition to stimulating the production of antibodies, it encourages the body’s so-called T cells to attack the virus, he said.

“The vaccine is very well constructed and the breakwater is maintained.” I’m convinced of that, “Sahin said. “If I need to reinforce the breakwater, I’ll do it. I’m not worried.”

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