I AM always suspicious of the boasts and PR of big pharmaceutical companies, but the announcement by Pfizer-BioNTech that its vaccine is 90 per cent effective, with no noticeable side effects, made me optimistic for the first time in many months.

Many people will have heard of US giant Pfizer, but few will know of its German-based partner BioNTech. Nevertheless, the evidence suggests that most of the developmental research was done by BioNTech, with Pfizer putting up finance as well as manufacturing and distribution facilities.

BioNTech was founded in the city of Mainz as recently as 2008 and already employs 1,300 people. The company was set up by Turkish born Muslim immigrant Ugar Sahin and his wife Özlem Türeci, who is the daughter of Turkish migrants to Germany.

Sahin’s father came to Germany to work on the production line at the Ford Motor Company and the couple met at university where they were both science undergraduates.

There are millions of anti-immigrant bigots in Germany as in the UK. I wonder what their response to new vaccine might be?

Perhaps it will be on the following lines: “They come over here and work hard to enable their children to gain a good education. Their children then qualify as scientists, work for a while as university professors and then set their own company up, employing lots of highly skilled people. They also do terrible things such as invent vaccines, possibly saving millions of lives and potentially rescuing the capitalist system from the worst downturn in nearly 100 years. That’s why we need tough immigration controls.”

John Gilmore, Bishop Auckland.