Coronavirus: BioNTech CEO says new vaccine will be needed in 2022

The CEO of BioNTech, the company that paired with Pfizer to develop a COVID-19 vaccine, told The Financial Times on Sunday that a new vaccine formula will probably be needed by the middle of next year, as new variants to the virus are likely to emerge.

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Ugur Sahin, who co-founded BioNTech, said that the variants seen now are not so different from the original virus as to evade the protection that the current vaccine offers.

However, Sahin warns that new variants will emerge that will be able to evade vaccines and booster shots.

“This year [a different vaccine] is completely unneeded,” he said. “But, by mid-next year, it could be a different situation.”

The COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech uses mRNA technology. More than 1.5 billion doses of the vaccine have been shipped to more than 130 countries as of late September, according to the company.

The vaccine is available to anyone over age 12 in the U.S.

In September, BioNTech and Pfizer submitted data to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for an Emergency Use Authorization for a vaccine for children ages 5 to 11.

Sahin told the Financial Times that he does not see COVID-19 going away, and that a tailored version of the vaccine will be needed to the fight against the disease that has claimed more than 700,000 lives in the U.S.

“This virus will stay, and the virus will further adapt,” he said. “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.”