Updated January 3, 2022
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?
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?
By the end of 2021 more than 500 million doses of BioNTech had been given in the world. 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|
|More than 1 in 10 people|
|Up to 1 in 10 people|
|Up to 1 in 100 people|
|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.
Do I need a booster dose of the BioNTech vaccine?
There is good scientific evidence to suggest that although antibody levels are falling, protection against hospitalisation and death is holding up very well in most demographics other than older patients and those that are immunocompromised. Omicron has tilted the risk-benefit in favour of early vaccination and we would advise people to receive their booster doses as soon as they become eligible for them. In Hong Kong we advise our patients who do not have a contraindication to taking the BioNTech vaccination. Eligibility information is available here and online booking is available here.
Does BioNTech prevent transmission of COVID-19?
Studies from both the UK and Israel show reduced infection in the contacts of vaccinated individuals. The effect on transmission is less for the newer variants. It is too early to be certain how effective the reduction in transmission will be with Omicron. We have good evidence that people are being reinfected although the illness is generally milder in previously vaccinated people.
Is BioNTech Vaccine effective against the Omicron Variant?
Answer: Yes, early data suggests that vaccines are continuing to protect against severe disease.
Studies from the UK showed 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. Early data suggests that Omicron is better at avoiding existing immunity than Delta. Recent data suggests that BioNTech vaccination is continuing to provide protection. Booster doses significantly increase protection against variants.
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. Booster doses significantly increase protection against variants.
We have a further article Omicron which we will continue to update as more evidence arises
Can children have BioNTech vaccine?
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.
There have been a number of reports of myocarditis (heart inflammation) in adolescents, especially boys and especially after the second dose. This issue was discussed in more detail in a recent podcast with Professor Cowling. We discuss the issue of vaccinating children in more detail in another article here.
Can pregnant and lactating mothers have BioNTech vaccine?
BioNTech is licensed for pregnant or lactating mothers and is given internationally. The WHO specifically recommends 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. Pregnant and breastfeeding mothers should have booster doses using the same schedule as the rest of the population.
Can the BioNTech vaccine change my DNA?
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.
Do I need a body check before I have a COVID-19 Vaccine?
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?
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?