Hopeful developments for a vaccine against COVID-19 are taking place, after Pfizer and BioNTech SE announced interim results showing their vaccine prevented more than 90% of infections in a volunteer study.
The company says there have been no serious side effects and the results have exceeded their prevention expectations, the first vaccines were previously expected to be in the range of 60% to 70%. “More than 90%. is extraordinary” Bio-NTech chief executive officer Ugur Sahin said.
These compelling results will excite politicians and public health leaders, but there is a potential for the efficacy rate to change as the trial continues. The company says furthering required safety data is going to take up until the third week of November, they will then submit a dossier to regulators for approval.
“I’m near-ecstatic,” Bill Gruber, one of Pfizer’s top vaccine scientists, said in an interview. “This is a great day for public health and for the potential to get us all out of the circumstances we’re now in.”
The vaccine uses the genetic code rather than parts of the virus itself; this study has been leading the race for a while. The companies began manufacturing the vaccine before they knew it would work, they now expect to produce enough vaccine for up to 50m doses this year and up to 1.3bn doses next year. The UK have already brought 30m doses, this would be enough to vaccinate 15 million people as two doses are required per person.
The phase 3 trials have involved more than 43,000 people, the volunteers are given either a placebo or the Covid vaccine which is administered in two shots around three weeks apart. Neither the volunteer or physician know which is being given only the trials data monitoring committee will know.
There is still limited data, they don’t yet know how well the vaccine works in the elderly as these analyses haven’t been conducted. It also isn’t known whether the vaccine prevents severe disease as none of the participants had severe covid-19 cases, Gruber said.
So far, the monitoring committee hasn’t identified any serious safety concerns Pfizer and BioNTech said. “it shows that Covid-19 can be controlled” Sahin said in an interview.