BioNTech Vaccine in 12 easy questions

Written by Dr David Owens

What type of vaccine is BioNTech?

Answer: BioNTech is a messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine

Messenger RNA vaccines represent a new technology in which a small segment of mRNA is injected into the body. This causes the body to produce spike protein and leads to the development of immunity. This vaccine reports the highest efficacy rates. It is given as 2 shots 21 days apart. In Hong Kong, the datasheet for the vaccine given can be found here.


Is BioNTech an effective vaccine?

Answer: Yes

BioNTech has a 95% efficacy in preventing symptomatic COVID-19 in clinical trials. We now have large population studies of effectiveness from numerous countries which confirm this response. Populations with widespread immunisation are seeing a significant reduction in cases, hospitalisation and deaths. A study from Hong Kong University published in The Lancet showed 10X higher antibody levels in patients given BioNTech in comparison to Sinovac. This has also been our findings with OT&P patients. We recently reviewed more than 800 post-vaccine antibody tests. We also saw significantly higher antibody levels after the BioNTech vaccination. BioNTech is an extremely effective vaccination.


Is BioNTech a safe vaccine?

Answer: Yes

By the end of June 2021 more than 180 million doses of BioNTech had been given in the US alone. In general, safety data for BioNTech compares favourably with other vaccinations which are given routinely.


Does BioNTech vaccine have side effects?

Answer: Yes but the vast majority are mild and self-limiting

The following are the reported incidence for side effects with BioNTech:

  Side Effects May Affect
Very common
  • Injection site:
    pain, swelling
  • Tiredness
  • Headache
  • Muscle pain
  • Chills
  • Joint pain
  • Diarrhoea
  • Fever
Some of these side effects were slightly more frequent in adolescents (12 - 15 years old) than in adults.
More than 1 in 10 people
  • Injection site:
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
Up to 1 in 10 people
  • Enlarged lymph nodes
  • Feeling unwell
  • Arm pain
  • Insomnia
  • Injection site:
  • allergic reactions
    (e.g. rash, itching)
Up to 1 in 100 people
  • Temporary one-sided facial drooping
  • Allergic reactions (e.g. hives, swelling of the face)
Up to 1 in 1,000 people

Mild side effects are relatively common. In a recent survey of OT&P patients, only 2 out of 3,233 patients indicated that the side effects would prevent them from taking another vaccination. By end of April 2021, 88.9% of OT&P patients had been vaccinated with 96% choosing the BioNTech vaccine.


Does BioNTech prevent transmission of COVID-19?

Answer: Yes

Studies from both the UK and Israel show reduced infection in the contacts of vaccinated individuals. It is too early to be certain how effective the reduction in transmission will be with estimates ranging from 40 to 90%.


Is BioNTech Vaccine effective against the Delta Variant?

Answer: Yes

Studies from the UK show the BioNTech vaccine to be 96% effective against hospitalization with the Delta variant. Another study showed it to be 88% effective in preventing symptomatic disease. This compares with 93% effectiveness against the Alpha variant. In summary, we have very good evidence from large population studies that show the BioNTech vaccine to be slightly less effective against the variants of concern than against the original variant. It is still highly effective in numerous large populations studies against the current variants.


Can children have BioNTech vaccine?

Answer: Yes

In Hong Kong, BioNTech is licensed for children aged 12 years and older. In general, children are much less likely to have significant illness than older adults, although older adolescents, especially, seem to transmit the illness. The WHO recommends that countries should consider using the vaccine in children aged 12 to 15 only when high vaccine coverage with 2 doses has been achieved in other high priority groups.


Can pregnant and lactating mothers have BioNTech vaccine?

Answer: Yes

BioNTech is licensed for pregnant or lactating mothers and is given internationally. The WHO specifically recommend Covid vaccination for pregnant women. In Hong Kong, the CHP advises pregnant and lactating mothers to discuss the risk-benefit of BioNTech vaccination with their doctor.


Can the BioNTech vaccine change my DNA?

Answer: No

The BioNTech vaccine is a messenger RNA vaccine. The mRNA enters the outside of the cell (the cytoplasm). It does not enter the nucleus and it does not (and is not able to) integrate or change the DNA. The mRNA in the vaccine has a short half-life and is gone from the body in 7 - 9 days. mRNA vaccine research has been ongoing since the mid-1990s.


Can the BioNTech vaccine cause infertility?

Answer: No

There is no scientific evidence to suggest that the vaccine can cause infertility, indeed there is good evidence that the vaccine has no impact on fertility. Various reports linking vaccination to infertility on social media are examples of misinformation.


Do I need a body check before I have a COVID-19 Vaccine?

Answer: No

Would you have a body check before having a flu jab? People who have underlying medical conditions should ideally always have them controlled. Individuals with other illnesses are generally at greater risk of COVID-19 and it is even more important that they are vaccinated.


I have high blood pressure and/or diabetes can I have BioNTech vaccine?

Answer: Yes

If you have high blood pressure and/or diabetes they should ideally be controlled but it is even more important for you to be vaccinated.


In a further article, we look at Sinovac versus BioNTech and ask which is the best of the vaccines available in Hong Kong?

Topics: COVID-19

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