“We are technically able to deliver a new vaccine in six weeks," said scientist and entrepreneur Ugur Sahin of the German laboratory BioNTech. "In principle, the beauty of messenger RNA technology is that we can directly start designing a vaccine that completely emits the new mutation," he added during a press conference in Mainz (western Germany), a day after the green light from European authorities to distribute the vaccine that the German laboratory developed with Pfizer in the European Union.

BioNTech is confident that the coronavirus vaccine will work in the case of the new variant that has been tested in the UK, but stresses that further studies are needed. The variant, found mainly in London and south-east England in recent weeks, has generated concern around the world because of indications that it can spread more easily. Although there is no indication that it causes more serious forms of the disease, several countries in Europe are restricting travel from the UK. "We don't know at the moment whether our vaccine is also able to provide protection against this new variant," Ugur Sahin said, adding, "But scientifically, it is highly likely that the immune response to this vaccine can also deal with the new variants of the virus,"

Sahin said the proteins in the variant found in the UK are 99% identical to those of the initial strain and therefore BioNTech has "scientific confidence" that its vaccine will be effective. "But we'll only know if we test and we'll need about two weeks from now to get the data," he said. However, the head of BioNTech also considered that the probability that the vaccine they developed with Pfizer will work "is relatively high." If the vaccine needs to be adjusted for the new variant, the company says it can do so in six weeks, although regulators may have to approve the changes before the vaccines are used. The BioNTech vaccine, developed in conjunction with U.S. drugmaker Pfizer, is authorized for use in more than 45 countries, including Britain, the United States and the EU.