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FRANKFURT: The world is becoming "better prepared" to deal with future variants of the coronavirus, the CEO and co-founder of German vaccine-maker BioNTech told AFP Thursday, as the company works on an Omicron-specific shot.

"We will have to get used to the fact that we will have to live with the virus for the next 10 years," said Ugur Sahin, whose company developed the first mRNA vaccine against the virus with US pharma giant Pfizer.

As the surge of cases due to the spread of the more transmissible Omicron variant of the virus seemed to be receding in Europe, Sahin said it would not be the last virus wave.

New virus variants were inevitable "because the virus will mutate further", he said, potentially leading to new flare-ups in cases.

But the world was "entering a phase where society is getting a better understanding on how to deal with the virus," Sahin said.

BioNTech to ship mobile Covid vaccine labs to Africa

"We are always learning more and are becoming better prepared," the BioNTech boss said.

The Marburg-based company, which has sold well over a billion doses of its vaccine against the original strain of the coronavirus, is in the process of developing an Omicron-specific shot.

The first trial data for the variant-tailored vaccines are expected in March, Sahin said, also telling the German daily Bild that the first deliveries could happen in April or May if necessary.

On Wednesday, the group presented mobile vaccine production units housed in shipping containers, which the group plans to deploy in Africa this year in order to boost vaccine supply on the continent.

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