BREAKING: Early Data Shows Pfizer's Vaccine to Be More Than 90% Effective
Since January, drug makers have been frantically working to create a vaccine for COVID-19 to end the global pandemic. Yet while the typical timeframe to manufacture a vaccine is ten years, an accelerated course to discover a vaccine within 1-2 years seemed difficult to surmount.
On November 9, the drug companyPfizer announced that their COVID-19 vaccine trial seemed to suggest that it was more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19. Comparatively, most scientists were projecting and hoping for a 50-60% success rate, making Pfizer’s data even more exciting. Pfizer will be asking the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency authorization of the vaccine later this month after they have successfully coalesced their two months of safety data. Pfizer and BioNTech will have enough doses to immunize 15 to 20 million people by the end of 2020. 1.3 billion doses of the vaccine could be available in 2021.
Pfizer has been promised $1.5 billion federal funding from Operation Warp Speed in return for 100 million doses for Americans, which will be distributed by the U.S. government free of charge. The results of these initial trials mean that millions of people can be vaccinated sooner than initially thought. Pfizer’s data suggests that the pandemic may end sooner than some epidemiologists have projected, such as researchers from Harvard University’s School of Public Health stating that “social distancing will likely be needed into 2022.”. However, some experts, such as CHI Health expert Dr. David Quimby, note that the process of FDA approval could drag on if not deliberately rushed, meaning it could be more than a year before everyone can have access to a vaccine.
Concerns have been raised regarding how long the vaccine will protect the body and whether it will need to be a consistently received shot. Other worries include the possibility that a rushed vaccine could lead to long term serious safety concerns. Pfizer, along with its German partner, BioNTech, have found in their initial trials that no serious side effects have been observed, but without enough time, it’s unsure if longer term side effects could be linked to this vaccine.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is optimistic about Pfizer's data, citing Pfizer’s background as a “highly reputable drug company” in an interview on CNN with Wolf Blitzer. He states that more analysis of this data will need to be done considering the durability of the vaccine and how it affects certain populations such as the elderly but states “the bottom line is, as a vaccine, it’s more than ninety percent effective which is extraordinary and will play a major role in what the outcome of this [pandemic] will be.”
Pfizer’s vaccine is unique; it is a mRNA vaccine, not unlike the vaccine by Cambridge’s Moderna, which is currently in trials. These types of vaccines have never before been approved by regulators. mRNA vaccines are break-through products that have only been introduced to the medical community recently, just before the pandemic. However, with the success of Pfizer’s trials and Moderna following closely behind, it seems these mRNA vaccines are not only effective but soon to be on the market.
The vaccine will need to be kept at low temperatures and people will need to receive two doses within four weeks in order for the vaccine to be successful. Initial supplies will be limited which means that it could be weeks or months before a majority of the population can be vaccinated as predicted by Dr. Fauci. Social distancing, mask wearing, and other preventative measures will need to still take place, especially heading into flu season, until experts announce that it is safe for things to ‘return to normal.’
People are still rejoicing, and the Dow Jones has jumped up 800 points in response to a return to a possibly normal economy. Others in the race to vaccinate such as Moderna or the University of Oxford-Astrazeneca are also having successful trials, though no data has been reported to be as successful as Pfizer’s, which could mean that more and more vaccines will later be available. As more vaccines are approved and become available, there will be more opportunities for people to receive those vaccinations faster and faster, meaning we could once again see a pre-COVID world as early as mid 2021 to early 2022.