German-made vaccine likely ready by December, but BioNTech CEO says taming coronavirus might take a decade

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Credit: Frank Hoemann/AP Images

Several hundred million doses [of a COVID-19 vaccine] could be produced even before approval, and over 1 billion by the end of 2021, BioNTech SE co-founder and CEO Dr. Ugur Sahin told The Wall Street Journal.

BioNTech, originally a cancer-treatment biotech company, is one of 17 firms world-wide that have started human trials on a vaccine against Covid-19.

The vaccine BioNTech is developing uses experimental technology known as messenger RNA, or mRNA. Pending approval by authorities, BioNTech expects to begin the final stage of the testing process, known as Phase 3 trials, at the end of July. These would see 30,000 people take part in a randomized study of the vaccine that is expected to be completed by the end of the year, when the company would seek market approval from regulators across the globe.


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But even as BioNTech and its partners are already scaling up production capacities in anticipation of approval, the coronavirus has become so widespread—over 13 million people around the world had tested positive by Friday—that it would take about 10 years before humanity achieved sufficient immunity to the disease, even if several companies launch a vaccine at the same time, according to Dr. Sahin.

“I assume that we will only be done with this virus when more than 90% of the global population will get immunity, either through infection or through a vaccine.”

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