DER SPIEGEL: Mr. Şahin, you don’t tend to be easily rattled. But did your heart drop a little when you first saw the information about the new Omicron variant?

Şahin: I was worried. It is an unexpected development, and we also first had to come to terms with this uncharted situation. For a few days, it wasn’t even clear what we were dealing with. Whether it is an escape variant that can evade the immune system. Fortunately, it turned out to only be a partial escape variant, which, in principle, can be controlled with vaccinations.

DER SPIEGEL: So, you’re reasonably confident?

Şahin: Yes, we have been regrouping in the past few weeks. There are still a lot of unknowns, but we have a plan to find the answers and then move forward. We have been preparing for new variants since this spring.

DER SPIEGEL: On Wednesday, you published the results of a preliminary study of how well the BioNTech vaccine works against Omicron. It found that people who have received at least three shots of the vaccine should now be well protected. Were you surprised by that?

Şahin: We had developed five or six scenarios. This preliminary result is the best result that was possible in this situation. According to preliminary data, three doses significantly neutralize the virus. Further data will show how strong the protection is and how long it lasts.

DER SPIEGEL: Other studies are less optimistic. Frankfurt-based virologist Sandra Ciesek, for example, found a significantly lower immune response in her analysis than in the BioNTech study. Why is that?

Şahin: The differences are not that big. Our approach and the data sets were slightly different – when the sera were collected after vaccination, for example. We are in close contact with many researchers, including Ms. Ciesek. Over the

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