The pharmaceutical boss behind the Pfizer Covid vaccine has advised people to not ‘freak out’ about the emergence of the ‘worst variant yet’.
Dr Ugur Sahin, co-founder of BioNTech, has admitted Omicron could lead to more infections among the vaccinated.
But he said people jabbed with Pfizer are likely to still be protected from severe illness, in a boost for those concerned across the globe.
The immunologist told The Wall Street Journal: ‘Don’t freak out, the plan remains the same: Speed up the administration of a third booster shot.’
Dr Sahin said the Pfizer jab gives people two levels of protection from coronavirus.
Omicron has the ability to evade the first layer of protection which generates Covid antibodies that help people’s immune systems prevent the virus from infecting cells.
But it’s expected to not break through the second layer, which sees immune cells in the body spring into action to destroy infected cells.
The BioNTech chief said: ’If a virus achieves immune escape, it achieves it against antibodies, but there is the second level of immune response that protects from severe disease – the T-cells.
‘Even as an escape variant, the virus will hardly be able to completely evade the T-cells.’
His reassurance comes as the Government vows to offer all adults a booster by the end of January.
The third jab was previously only available for the over-40s but the NHS will work at ‘breakneck speed’ to expand the rollout.
New restrictions have come in today, with face masks now compulsory in shops and on public transport.
Eight more cases of Omicron have been found in England, bringing the total number across the UK to 13.
The rest of the world is also scrambling to deal with the new variant, with many countries banning flights from South African countries.
Israel has gone one step further by completely closing borders to foreigners.
Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org
For more stories like this, check our news page.