International 29/04/2021

BioNTech confirms a third dose of Pfizer vaccine will be needed to maintain immunity

The co-founder of the laboratory believes that from then on a new injection will have to be given every 12 to 18 months

2 min
Uğur Şahin, co-founder and CEO of BioNTech, in a file image

SabadellTwo doses of the Pfizer vaccine is not enough to be immunised for life against covid-19. Uğur Şahin, co-founder of the German laboratory BioNTech, which developed this vaccine, confirmed on Wednesday that, after nine months to a year after the second injection, it will be necessary to receive a third one so that the level of protection offered by the vaccine does not drop more than necessary. And, from then on, the operation will have to be repeated every twelve to eighteen months.

In a meeting with journalists, Şahin (who founded BioNTech in 2008 together with his wife, Özlem Türeci) pointed out that those vaccinated with Pfizer achieve maximum protection against the coronavirus seven days after receiving the second dose, but stressed that this level does not remain stable. Clinical trials found the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine to be 95% effective, but a study conducted under real-world conditions in Israel raised this percentage to 97% protection against symptomatic and severe cases of the disease. However, as Şahin explained, the data shows that six months after completing the vaccination the level of protection has dropped to 91%, and after eight months it is still lower. "We will need a third dose to boost immunity and bring it back to close to 100%", the immunologist explained, adding: "The third dose at nine months or, at the latest, after one year can help protection as a booster vaccination".

From here there is still no conclusive data, but Şahin believes that "probably" we will need to get "new reminders every year or perhaps every eighteen months" to ensure that protection against covid-19 is maintained at the highest possible levels at all times. In fact, a few weeks ago the CEO of Pfizer, Albert Bourla, had already warned that it would "probably" be necessary to receive a third dose of the vaccine between six and twelve months after the second, and then new injections annually, although he admitted that this was a hypothesis that had not yet been confirmed.

Effective against the Indian variant

On the other hand, Uğur Şahin was hopeful about the effectiveness of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine against the new variant of covid-19 detected in India. As he explained, this new form of the virus shares some mutations with the Brazilian and Californian variants. "These are mutations that we have already studied and against which our vaccine works, which gives us confidence", he said. In fact, according to him, so far the efficacy of the vaccine has been studied against about thirty variants, and in "practically all of them" (including the British one, which is the most widespread in Europe right now) it has proved effective.

In addition, the German doctor of Turkish origin has predicted that Europe will be able to achieve herd immunity during the summer and therefore meet the objective that the European Commission has been setting for months. In his opinion, in fact, the continent will have vaccinated 70% of its population (the threshold at which herd immunity is considered to be achieved) "in July or August at the latest".

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