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Photo: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin told the Financial Times his company could produce a new vaccine to combat mutations of COVID-19 within six weeks using the technology from its current vaccine, which was developed with Pfizer.

Driving the news: Concerns have mounted after the U.K. and World Health Organization said they have identified a new variant of COVID-19 in England that appears to be 70% more transmissible. U.S. officials have said the chances the new strain will make current vaccines less effective are "extremely low."

  • Sahin said it would take two weeks to definitively prove in the laboratory whether the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine would still work as effectively on the new strain.
  • But if not, "the beauty of the messenger mRNA technology is we can directly start to engineer a vaccine that completely mimics this new mutation and we could manufacture a new vaccine within six weeks,” Sahin told the FT.

How it works: The new variant has multiple mutations, but most of the sites that trigger immune response have not mutated, Sahin said.

  • “[This] makes us confident that the T cell response will still work, but we need to do experiments to quantify how well it works," he added.
  • “In principle, what we would do is change the insert [of the vaccine] and replace a virus variant with another variant without touching the platform,” said BioNTech chief medical officer Ozlem Tureci.
  • The speed of the rollout would then be up to regulators.

The state of play: Distribution of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has already been begun in the U.S., U.K., Canada and Israel. The European Commission granted authorization for the vaccine on Monday.

Go deeper ... The coronavirus mutation in the U.K.: What you need to know

Go deeper

AT&T mandates COVID vaccination for most unionized workers

Photo: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

AT&T expanded its COVID-19 vaccine mandate Wednesday to employees who are members of the Communications Workers of America (CWA) union.

Why it matters: The communications giant is one of the biggest employers in the U.S. to require frontline workers to be vaccinated against the virus. The union said it represents some 90,000 AT&T workers, per AP.

Sep 29, 2021 - Health

CDC issues urgent advisory calling on pregnant people to get COVID vaccine

Photo: Ben Hasty/MediaNews Group/Reading Eagle via Getty Images

The CDC issued "an urgent health advisory" on Wednesday urging people who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Why it matters: The CDC said it "strongly recommends" vaccination because its benefits for a pregnant person and the fetus outweigh the risks. It added that pregnant people with COVID-19 are at "increased risk" of outcomes such as preterm birth, stillbirth and admission of a newborn into the ICU.

YouTube cracks down on anti-vax misinformation

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

YouTube is beefing up its misinformation policies to crack down on anti-vaccine misinformation beyond COVID-19 vaccinations, executives told Axios.

Why it matters: Under the new policy, YouTube will terminate the channels of what it calls prominent vaccine misinformation spreaders, including the channel of the Robert F. Kennedy Jr.-affiliated Children's Health Defense.

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