Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer reports that its COVID-19 vaccine was more than 90% effective at preventing infection during preliminary trials, according to a press release.
Half of more than 43,000 volunteers exposed to the virus received the vaccine, while the other half were in a placebo group. More than 90% of the first 94 recorded cases of COVID-19 in the study were in the placebo group, which indicates that the vaccine was effective at stopping the virus.
The breakthrough puts this vaccine at the forefront of the global effort to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic. If further results confirm its efficacy and safety, then international funding could help scale up production and distribution of the vaccine on a global level.
The vaccine was delivered in two doses and takes effect over 28 days, Pfizer notes. The near-immunity rate of 90% is far higher than the CDC’s goal of 50%, according to CNN. By comparison, the flu vaccine is between 40% to 60% effective any given year.
“With today’s news, we are a significant step closer to providing people around the world with a much-needed breakthrough to help bring an end to this global health crisis,” said Dr. Albert Bourla, Pfizer chairman and CEO, in the press release. “We look forward to sharing additional efficacy and safety data generated from thousands of participants in the coming weeks.”
Scientists have greeted news of the vaccine results with guarded enthusiasm, according to Nature. One of the biggest question marks that remains is what types of cases the vaccine protects against, Nature reports. In other words, does the vaccine only protect against mild cases of COVID-19 or all forms of the virus?
It’s also unclear if the vaccine will prevent people from spreading the virus to others, even if they themselves remain protected. One of the pressing problems with COVID-19 is how people with few or no symptoms can spread the virus.
More data needs to be released on whether the vaccine protects people regardless of age and underlying conditions and how long it lasts.
If the vaccine passes additional oversight protocols, then Pfizer could receive special Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to begin manufacturing and distributing the vaccine in the US by the end of this year or early next year, according to the press release.
Pfizer developed the vaccine in partnership with the German biotechnology company BioNTech as part of a collaboration that could see global and equitable distribution of the vital vaccine. The press release notes that 1.3 billion doses of the vaccine could be produced in 2021, but it’s unclear who will receive priority.
The COVID-19 pandemic will only be overcome if everyone in the world is given equal access to adequate health care. That’s why the World Health Organization (WHO) is currently working with partners on the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator to ensure that COVID-19 treatments and vaccines will be made available to everyone around the world.
If the vaccine ends up receiving widespread approval and proves effective at protecting people from the virus, then it would mark the fastest development of a vaccine in human history, signalling a new era of rapid pathogen containment that could lay the groundwork for future vaccine campaigns.
“This is a victory for innovation, science and a global collaborative effort,” said Prof. Ugur Sahin, BioNTech co-founder and CEO. “When we embarked on this journey 10 months ago, this is what we aspired to achieve. Especially today, while we are all in the midst of a second wave and many of us in lockdown, we appreciate even more how important this milestone is on our path towards ending this pandemic and for all of us to regain a sense of normality.”
Launched in April by seven global partners, the ACT-Accelerator is a unique coalition aimed at accelerating global efforts against the COVID-19 pandemic. Its members are working together to develop tests, treatments, and vaccines as quickly as possible, while also strengthening the world’s most fragile health systems.
But the organization desperately needs financial support from governments around the world. You can join us in calling on world leaders to fund the ACT-Accelerator by taking action here.