BioNTech co-founder: Vaccinated unlikely to become seriously ill from omicron

BioNTech co-founder Ugur Sahin said in an interview published Tuesday that while the omicron variant may result in more breakthrough cases of COVID-19, most vaccinated individuals who contract the strain will likely experience mild illness.

Speaking to The Wall Street Journal, Sahin said, “Our message is: Don’t freak out, the plan remains the same: Speed up the administration of a third booster shot.”

Although no studies on the new variant have been released yet, Sahin said he believed vaccinated people will still be protected from severe illness based on how the vaccine he helped develop has protected against past variants that are more contagious.

As an example, Sahin pointed to the delta variant. It has been shown to infect vaccinated individuals at a higher rate than previous strains, but immunized people have still been shown to be protected against severe cases of the coronavirus.

BioNTech’s vaccine, which was produced alongside Pfizer, works by creating antibodies that prevent infection from occurring in the first place as well as T lymphocytes, white blood cells that attack cells in the body that have already been infected. According to Sahin, even if the virus evades antibodies, it should still be vulnerable to T lymphocytes.