The progression of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus around the world raises many questions for scientists. Its transmission and virulence remain to be precisely determined. But the thorniest question concerns its ability to escape Covid-19 vaccines. On the occasion of a meeting with Le Monde, Ugur Sahin, CEO of BioNTech, the German company behind the messenger RNA vaccine produced with Pfizer, remains confident.
According to him, “Real-life data from Great Britain and South Africa give us reassuring information.” Last week, Discovery Health, South Africa’s leading private health insurance organization, and Public Health England submitted their analyzes of the first Omicron contamination. “Preliminary data from the UK pointed to an efficacy of around 70% after the third dose and around 20% to 40% after the second dose,” he says. A new study from Imperial College London, published after the interview, even drops the latter figure below 20%. Ugur Sahin continues: “South Africans make similar observations. Their data also shows that protection against severe forms after two doses would be 70%, which I think might be a bit underestimated. The primary infection rate is high in South Africa, so the control group, with which our vaccine is compared, is undoubtedly better protected than a conventional population. So I’m waiting for the next real data from the UK on the subject. “
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Loss of efficiency
But how long will this relative protection last? A German team recently reported a very rapid drop in efficacy, even after three doses. After three months, it fell back to 25%. “There will be a loss of effectiveness against Omicron over time, it is very likely, but we still have to measure the speed. I will not base the predictions on preliminary laboratory data, but on real-life data, which is much more appropriate, says Ugur Sahin. We have to look at the situation in a different way. It is obvious that we are far from the 95% effectiveness that we had obtained against the initial virus. However, after the third injection, our vaccine appears to provide 70% or 75% protection against any type of disease, which is still a good result for a vaccine in general and I think we will far exceed it in the severe forms. . ”
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