BREAKTHROUGH scientist Ugur Sahin said it was “absolutely essential” to have a high vaccination rate to stem the spread of Covid-19 before autumn next year.

The chief executive of German biotech company BioNTech, along with his wife Ozlem Tureci the creators of the experimental vaccine which could help to beat the virus, said it could probably cut transmission rates by half, but it may not be before next summer that its effect maximises.

He told BBC’S Andrew Marr show: “This winter will be hard. So we will not have a big impact on the infection numbers with our vaccine this winter.”

“If everything continues to go well, we will start to deliver the vaccine end of this year, beginning next year.”

Prof Sahin said the goal was to deliver more than 300 million doses before April next year, which could “already start to make an impact”, with a greater effect expected during the summer.

He said: “What is absolutely essential is that we get a high vaccination rate before autumn/winter next year, so that means all the immunisation, vaccination approaches must be accomplished before next autumn.

“I’m confident that this will happen, because a number of vaccine companies have been asked to increase the supply, and so that we could have a normal winter next year.”

Recalling the moment he was told of their vaccine’s effectiveness, Prof Sahin said it was “extremely relieving”.

“As a scientist, you of course expect certain likelihood that the card could be positive based on the data that we had so far, but there is always unknown factors.

“And it could be that there is a scientific, biological or medical reason why the vaccine does not work.

“We now know that our vaccine works, and most likely other vaccines will also work.

“So this is really a message which not only changes how we develop vaccines, but also increases the likelihood that we will be able to get this pandemic under control.”

He said that more data needs to be generated to find out if immunisation against coronavirus was required each year.

Asked if it was going to be annual Covid-19 jabs, such as with the flu jab, he said: “ “The flu is a little bit different, because with flu we are really dealing every year with a different strain, or different strains.

“The Covid-19 of course has some mutations, but so far the mutations are very distinct, and I don’t expect that the virus will have a dramatic shift, which is observed, for example, for influenza.

“So the only reason for booster immunisations will be if we realise that there is no protection after one year.

“It could be that it’s immunisation each year, every second year, or even every five years. So we really need to generate data to answer this question.”