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BioNTech CEO says new COVID-19 vaccines will likely be needed next year

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The CEO of BioNTech SE — the German biotechnology company that developed the first COVID-19 vaccine in a partnership with Pfizer — said a new coronavirus vaccine would likely be needed next year.

Ugur Sahin — co-founder and chief executive officer of BioNTech — told the Financial Times on Sunday that a new COVID-19 formula could be necessary by mid-2022 to combat new strains of coronavirus that evade booster shots and the body's immune defenses. Sahin also stressed that the new vaccine isn't needed at the moment because he claims that the current COVID-19 vaccine is effective against the delta variant.

"This year [a different vaccine] is completely unneeded," Sahin said. "But by mid next year, it could be a different situation."

Sahin — who has a net worth of $10.9 billion — noted that new COVID-19 vaccines could be needed next year because the coronavirus will "eventually develop mutations that can escape the immune response bestowed by the vaccine." When that happens, a new "tailored" vaccine will be reportedly needed to specifically target the new strain.

"This virus will stay, and the virus will further adapt," Sahin added. "We have no reason to assume that the next generation virus will be easier to handle for the immune system than the existing generation. This is a continuous evolution, and that evolution has just started."

On Thursday, a new study found that many people who received both shots from the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 mRNA vaccine no longer had vaccine-induced antibodies six months after receiving their second dose.

"Our study shows vaccination with the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine induces high levels of neutralizing antibodies against the original vaccine strain, but these levels drop by nearly 10-fold by seven months" after the initial dose, Bali Pulendran of Stanford University and Mehul Suthar of Emory University told Reuters.

"In roughly half of all subjects, neutralizing antibodies that can block infection against coronavirus variants such as Delta, Beta, and Mu were undetectable at six months after the second dose," the outlet reported of the study that has not yet been peer-reviewed.

Also last week, a new UC-Davis study found no significant difference in COVID-19 viral load between vaccinated and unvaccinated individuals who test positive for infection, regardless of whether they have symptoms or not.

Last week, BioNTech and Pfizer announced that their COVID-19 vaccine is safe and effective for children ages 5 to 11, based on a trial of over 2,000 children. Pfizer is also currently testing the vaccine in children younger than age 5 and expects to release trial results by the end of 2021.

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