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Vaccine pioneer foresees need for new Covid jabs

BioNTech chief Uğur Şahin’s prediction comes as EU agency warns of tough autumn ahead

The scientist behind one of the leading Covid-19 vaccines has predicted that new jabs will be needed next year to better protect people from mutant strains, as Europe’s disease-monitoring agency warned that many people were still unprotected with existing vaccines.

Uğur Şahin, chief executive of the pharmaceutical company BioNTech, played a major part in the development of an mRNA Covid vaccine that was produced through a partnership with drugs giant Pfizer.

“This year [a different vaccine] is completely unneeded. But by mid next year, it could be a different situation,” he told the Financial Times newspaper for an interview published on 3 October.

“This virus will stay, and the virus will further adapt.”

His predictions came as the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control warned of a “high risk of [an] autumn surge in Covid-19 cases and deaths in countries with insufficient vaccination coverage”.

Only 61 per cent of people in the European Economic Area have been fully vaccinated so far, the ECDC said, adding that there is considerable variation in vaccine uptake with “large proportions of the EU/EEA population remaining susceptible to infection”.

ECDC director Andrea Ammon said countries should “continuously strive to increase their vaccination coverage in all eligible age groups, regardless of current vaccination coverage levels, to limit the burden of infections”.