Biontech founder in conversation with Merkel and Spahn: Working for the vaccine also over Christmas – domestic politics


The corona vaccine pioneers Uğur Şahin (55) and Özlem Türeci (53) spoke personally like never before with Chancellor Angela Merkel (66, CDU), Health Minister Jens Spahn (40, CDU) and Research Minister Anja Karliczek (49, CDU) ) on the way to the Biontech vaccine.

“On January 24th at the breakfast table we made the decision that we had to give the go-ahead,” said Türeci when the Chancellor asked whether the decision for corona vaccine research was made over coffee.

Türeci said: Biontech co-founder Şahin concluded from the events in Wuhan that “a pandemic could be imminent”. He then “alerted us” and “moved” that we first had to shift the focus from cancer therapy to corona vaccine research.

Corona vaccine pioneers and Biontech founders Özlem Türeci (53) and Uğur Şahin (55)Photo: dpa

The result: “Since that day, as it should be at the speed of light, not a day has been rested.” The Biontech team has “worked through nights and weekends in the past few months” and “postponed vacations”. In plain language: The employees have been working hard for our health for almost a year.

And the work is not over yet: “Many will now also do this over Christmas in order to enable deliveries in a timely manner,” said Türeci. Because: “The stage goal has been reached, the marathon is not quite over yet.”

“We could only do that because we have a fantastic team,” said Şahin earlier. It was also clear from the start that “we cannot lose any time.” And the most important goals: “Speed”, “Effectiveness”, “Tolerance” have all been achieved.

At the beginning of the Biontech summit, Merkel, Spahn and Karliczek each made short introductory statements. Because of the current lockdown, however, they were not visiting the Mainz headquarters, but were virtually connected.

► In her four-minute speech, the Chancellor said: “We are very proud that there are such researchers in our country.” The present result is “an expression of wonderful research achievements”. And further: “We look forward to the day on which the vaccination can start.”

Timeline: The Corona vaccination plan for Germany 2021 - infographic

“Now it’s about extradition, about vaccination”

► Health Minister Jens Spahn could not hide his (pre-) joy either: It was “incredibly great” to see this result. “Vaccine made in Mainz, made in Germany”. He emphasized that vaccination – after approval by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) – should start on December 27th.

He also called the fact that there is a joint EU approval as an “important signal of European solidarity”.

Spahn announced that he would sign the “corresponding vaccination ordinance” on Friday. There it is written in black and white who will be vaccinated first. Spahn: “Our goal is to first protect those who are over 80 years old and live or work in old people’s and nursing homes”. “Everyone else will be told when it’s their turn, when it’s their turn.”

From virus to vaccine for everyone - infographic

He also explained the time span between EMA approval (December 21) and the start of vaccination with the “considerable logistical effort”. Because: “It has to be delivered, the batches have to be released by the Paul Ehrlich Institute.” His announcement for all German citizens: “Now it’s about delivery, about vaccination.”

Biontech founder Şahin revealed that the delivery of the vaccine boxes will not start until the EMA has approved it. Means: Until then, no vaccine trucks will roll through Germany.

► Research Minister Karliczek also spoke about the hope that people have “in their vaccine”. Now it is a matter of “creating trust together through transparency”. In other words: to convince people of the vaccination.

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