BioNTech Professor, Ugur Sahin, has said that life could return to normal in the UK, Europe and US by “the middle of next year”
The BioNTech scientist behind the Pfizer novel coronavirus vaccine has said that people in the UK could be vaccinated against COVID-19 by the middle of December.
Speaking in his first interview with a broadcaster from the UK, Professor Ugur Sahin, the co-founder of the German firm BioNTech, had said that the first vaccines for COVID-19 could be rolled out to UK patients nationwide by mid-December.
But the Professor said that it would be dependant on whether the UK regulator licenses the vaccine 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”.
This comes after the deputy chief medical officer for England, Professor Van Tam, has said that he will be encouraging his own mum to get a COVID-19 vaccine when one is approved, as he assured the British public that safety standards would not be compromised in the face of the public health emergency.
During the wide-ranging interview, Professor Sahin mentioned his “alarm” when the novel coronavirus emerged in January, as well as speaking on a timeline for the vaccine and his modest lifestyle with his wife and fellow BioNTech co-founder at home in Germany.
He said that the news the vaccine is 90% effective at preventing COVID-19 was an “outstanding result”.
“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 entire world waits for safety checks and government authorisations, the best thing that people can do is wear a mask and maintain the social distancing guidance in their countries.
“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.”
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 newly received global fame, Professor Sahin, aged 55, has said that he does not own a Television and will continue to cycle to work despite shares in his company 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, along with his wife Ozlem Tureci, 53, are the co-founders of the German biotech firm that have been working with Pfizer on one of 12 leading COVID-19 vaccine trials.
The couple, both originally of Turkish origin, met while they were working within oncology in Germany, setting up their first company together back in 2001.
This comes after, asked whether the new COVID-19 vaccine could be available by Christmas, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said that was “absolutely a possibility”, but he expected that the mass roll-out occur “in the first part of next year”.
When Professor Sahin came across a scientific paper on a coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China, in January this year it struck him how similar his antibody drugs for cancer were to those that were needed for potential virus vaccines.
BioNTech had quickly been assigned about 500 members of staff to project “light speed” in order to work on several potential compounds, winning as partners, pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and Chinese drug maker Fosun, back in March.
“It was clear that there was a high likelihood it would be a global pandemic and it would come to Germany,” he told Sky News.
“It was a logical decision to start as soon as possible – It was very clear that we had no time to lose.”
Less than nine months later, the married couple are the first people in the world to be offering any hope of the COVID-19 pandemic coming to an end.