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Europe will 'reach herd immunity by July/August,' says BioNTech boss
29 April 2021, 09:51 | Updated: 29 April 2021, 10:15
Europe will likely achieve herd immunity against coronavirus this summer thanks to the widespread rollout of vaccines, the boss of pharmaceutical giant BioNTech has claimed.
The German company, headed by Ugur Sahin, developed the first widely approved Covid-19 vaccine with US partner Pfizer last year.
The exact threshold required to reach the 'herd immunity' level of immunisation remains a matter of debate but most experts believe anything above 70% would significantly disrupt transmission of the virus in the continent.
"Europe will reach herd immunity in July, latest by August," he said.
Mr Sahin's company's coronavirus vaccine makes up a large share of the doses administered in Europe and North America, where it is more commonly known as the Pfizer shot.
But he said data from people who have received the jab shows the immune response gets weaker over time and that a third booster shot will likely be needed in the future.
Studies show the efficacy of the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine declines from 95% to about 91% after six months.
"Accordingly, we need a third shot to get the vaccine protection back up to almost 100% again," Mr Sahin added.
He suggested this should be administered nine to 12 months after the first shot.
"And then I expect it will probably be necessary to get another booster every year or perhaps every 18 months again," he said.
In light of the findings, Health Secretary Matt Hancock yesterday announced the UK has secured a further 60 million Pfizer/BioNTech doses to prepare for a booster
The additional Pfizer jabs - which have been rolled out in the UK since December - will be used alongside other approved vaccines for the booster programme.
Over 200 million people have received a first dose of the vaccine in Europe so far - 47 million of them in the UK.
Almost 40 million first doses - 64.5% of all adults - have been delivered in the UK to date, with 13,581,076 million people - 25.8% - fully immunised with a second dose.