BioNTech hopes COVID-19 vaccine will immunize for at least a year

FILE PHOTO: Ugur Sahin, CEO and co-founder of German biotech firm BioNTech, is interviewed by journalists in Marburg, Germany September 17, 2020. REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer

FRANKFURT (Reuters) - BioNTech's BNTX.O co-founder and chief executive said he was optimistic that the protective effect of its experimental COVID-19 vaccine, co-developed with Pfizer PFE.N, would last for at least a year.

The two companies earlier on Monday became the first drugmakers to release successful trial data, saying their vaccine was shown to be more than 90% effective, a major victory in the fight against the pandemic.

“We should be more optimistic that the immunisation effect can last for at least a year,” CEO Ugur Sahin told Reuters.

While it was not yet known how long the protection would last, he said research on recovered patients had shown that those with high antibodies levels to begin with have not experienced a sharp drop in those levels, and the same would likely go for vaccinated people.

Highlighting the logistical challenge of distributing the vaccine, which belongs to a class known as messenger RNA, the arrangement for the first three months would be that the genetic compound would have to be shipped and centrally stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius.

For transport to and at the site of administration it can be kept for up to five days at fridge temperatures, Sahin said, adding he was confident logistics would work very well.

“By December we expect more data (on the molecular stability), and if those results allow us to keep the vaccine in a fridge for longer than five days, maybe two weeks, that would again simplify things.”

Reporting by Ludwig Burger and Patricia Weiss; editing by Thomas Seythal and Maria Sheahan