Speaking to UK newspaper The Guardian over Zoom, BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin said he was optimistic of the vaccine's success.
“If the question is whether we can stop this pandemic with this vaccine, then my answer is: yes, because I believe that even protection only from symptomatic infections will have a dramatic effect,” he told the UK daily.
Sahin explained he wasn't fully confident at first, but that all changed after the Phase III trial results were revealed last Monday. The way it works is by attacking the virus in multiple ways, first by making it difficult for the virus to actually get into the body, and then by training its immune system to fight back if it does.
“The vaccine hinders COVID-19 from gaining access to our cells. But even if the virus manages to find a way in, then the T-cells bash it over the head and eliminate it,” he told The Guardian.
“We have trained the immune system very well to perfect these two defensive moves. We now know that the virus can’t defend itself against these mechanisms.”
There are still some questions regarding the vaccine, however, such as how long the immunity caused by the vaccine could last. Sahin explained to The Guardian, however, that “Studies of COVID-19 patients have shown that those with a strong immune response still have that response after six months. I could imagine we could be safe for at least a year.”
The Pfizer-BioNTech candidate is seen my many as one of the most likely to win the vaccine race, with nations worldwide attempting to secure a means of ending the pandemic that has been raging since late 2019. Following their Phase III trial results revealed last Monday, the Israeli government has taken notice as well, with the government signing a formal contract Friday to receive eight million doses in January should it be successful.
“This is a great day for the State of Israel and a great day on the way to our victory over the coronavirus,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Friday. “Today we see a light at the end of the tunnel.”
But other vaccine candidates look promising as well. One of these, US-based firm Moderna, is also confident its candidate will be just as good or better than its competitors, with its chief medical officer Tal Zaks explaining in late October that "Our vaccine creates antibodies in the body... which means that besides being a preventative vaccine, our product can also be used as treatment for people who've already been infected. We've shown that the product prevents the virus from replicating and improves the patient's condition."
Likewise, Israel has also signed a deal with Moderna, and the Hadassah-University Medical Center in Jerusalem has signed an MOU with Russia to receive its Sputnik V vaccine candidate, which reportedly boasts an efficacy rate of 92%.