The scientist behind the Pfizer vaccine has told Sky News people in the UK could be vaccinated against coronavirus by the middle of next month.
Speaking in his first interview with a UK broadcaster, Professor Ugur Sahin, co-founder of German firm BioNTech, said the first vaccines could be rolled out to patients nationwide mid-December.
But he said it would depend on whether the UK regulator licences it in time, adding: “The earliest time point for supplying vaccines will not be before the middle of December.
“And the middle of December will not mean the situation will dramatically change. This will be a difficult winter. It will become worse before it becomes better.”
But he said with the help of the vaccine, we “could return to normal life by the middle of next year”.
During the wide-ranging interview, Professor Sahin spoke of his “alarm” when the virus emerged in January, a timeline for the vaccine and his modest lifestyle at home in Germany.
He described the news that the jab is 90% effective at preventing COVID-19 as an “outstanding result”.
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“We don’t expect that, as serious scientists, we consider potential efficacy between 60, 70 and 80%.”
Asked whether he felt under pressure after trials revealed the jab is 90% effective, he said: “Of course. But it’s not a race against each other, it’s a race against time.”
Professor Sahin said that while the world waits for safety checks and government authorisations, the best thing people can do is wear a mask and maintain social distancing.
“Everyone has a responsibility. It’s not just about governments. The most important aspect is to carry a mask, be careful and avoid too many people being too long in one room.”
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The co-founder of BioNtech, Ugur Sahin, says he foresaw coronavirus becoming a global problem back in January.
Asked if he will be getting the vaccine, he told Sky News: “Yes of course, I would take it on the first day I’m allowed to.”
Despite his new found global fame, Professor Sahin, 55, said he does not own a TV and will continue to cycle to work despite shares in his firm soaring to $21bn (£16bn).
“We want to continue to focus on our work. I’m middle class, it’s completely fine to live a normal middle class life – we don’t need anything beyond that.”
Professor Sahin and his wife Ozlem Tureci, 53, are co-founders of the German biotech firm working with Pfizer on one of 12 leading coronavirus vaccine trials.
Image: Professor Sahin, 55, and his wife founded BioNTech in 2008
Both of Turkish origin, they met while working in oncology in Germany, setting up their first firm together in 2001.
They founded BioNTech in 2008, selling the other company for £1bn in 2016.
When in January this year Professor Sahin came across a scientific paper on a coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China, it struck him how similar his antibody drugs for cancer were to those needed for potential viral vaccines.
BioNTech quickly assigned around 500 staff to project “light speed” to work on several possible compounds, winning pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and Chinese drug maker Fosun as partners in March.
“It was clear that there was a high likelihood it would be a global pandemic and it would come to Germany.
“It was a logical decision to start as soon as possible – It was very clear that we had no time to lose,” he told Sky News.
Less than nine months later, the couple are the first people in the world to offer any hope of the pandemic coming to an end.
Source : Sky News