Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine is all you can hear about these few days.
After all, it’s Singapore’s first approved Covid-19 vaccine and the first batch will reach Singapore by the end of this month.
But what exactly is it and which company manufactured it? Plus, should you get vaccinated since it’s free for Singaporeans anyway?
Here are 11 facts about the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine you need to know.
Pfizer started in the 1800s with money borrowed from the CEO’s father. Their first product was a tasty antiparasitic drug and their best-selling drug was citric acid.
Pfizer is no stranger to saving lives and throughout both world wars, their products, including iodine and penicillin have kept many people alive.
With the reveal of its new Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 Vaccine, Pfizer’s stocks also gain a massive boost and led to much gains in the stock market.
2. 95% Effective & Safe
The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine has been found to be 95% effective, which is beyond most experts’ wildest dreams.
The vaccine is also safe and its immune response is “consistent across age, gender, race and ethnicity demographics”.
Best of all, it had over 94% efficacy in those aged over 65, which is incredible, because many vaccines do not work well in older people, as their immune systems have weakened over time.
For the Pfizer BioNTech Covid-19 vaccine, every individual needs to be administered with two doses 21 days apart.
3. 44,000 People Across Six Countries Involved in The Study
Nearly 44,000 people from the US and five other countries were enrolled to take part in the study.
The findings were then analysed by an independent data monitoring board, who looked at 94 infections recorded so far in the study.
Pfizer has not provided any details about these infections and warned that the initial protection rate might change by the time the study concludes.
In the study, volunteers were either given the real vaccine or a dummy shot. They didn’t know which they were given.
A week after their second required dose, Pfizer began counting those who developed coronavirus symptoms and were confirmed to have Covid-19.
At the moment, it seems that nearly all the infections counted so far had to have occurred in people who received the dummy shots.
However, the study has not ended, and it’s too early to say how many in each group have been infected.
Pfizer will only end the study once it records 164 infections among all the volunteers, a number required by the Food and Drug Administration to tell how effective a vaccine is.
The good thing is that no participant so far has become severely ill as a result of the vaccination.
The not-so-good news is that participants were only tested if they developed symptoms, meaning participants could have contracted the virus and remained asymptomatic.
Nevertheless, BioNTech CEO told Reuters that he was optimistic that the immunity from the vaccine would last for a year, though he was not certain.
4. Troublesome Storage Requirement
The only hitch is that this vaccine requires extremely low temperatures for storage.
Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine must be stored at about -70°C (-94°F) which is cold enough to make ice cream as hard as a block of wood.
Urban areas may have no issue with these storage requirements, but those living in rural areas may have to wait for another vaccine, simply because they don’t have access to these facilities.
Thankfully, in Singapore, Singapore Airlines have already started testing flights to convey a large number of vaccines into Singapore.
This includes testing the storage of the vaccine, partnering up with cold chain container companies and vaccine producers.
5. Approved By The UK For Use
On 2 Dec 2020, the UK government approved the use of Pfizer’s experimental vaccine in the country.
And on 8 Dec 2020, the country began immunizing its residents against the coronavirus.
According to Reuters, the first doses will be given tomorrow to those over the age of 80, frontline healthcare workers, and care home staff and residents.
Britain has ordered a total of 40 million doses. Pfizer-BioNTech’s vaccine requires two doses, which means 20 million residents in Britain could potentially be inoculated.
That’s nearly 30% of the country’s population.
About 800,000 doses are expected to be available within the first week alone. They will first be stored at hospitals before being distributed to doctors’ clinics.
6. UK Government Issues Advisory
Not all is smooth-sailing, however, and on 10 Dec, they had to issue an advisory regarding the use of the vaccine.
The advisory comes after two people reported adverse effects on the first day of the mass vaccination.
Britain’s immunisation drive started on Tuesday with the elderly and front-line workers.
Two people who had received the vaccinations reportedly suffered anaphylaxis, and another suffered a possible allergic reaction.
Fortunately, the two recipients who suffered anaphylaxis are recovering well.
The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has warned that any person with a history of anaphylaxis to a vaccine, medicine, or food should not receive the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
Which is why Singapore’s authorities have cautioned selected groups of people from getting vaccinated even if the Pfizer vaccine is available in Singapore.
7. People Who Shouldn’t Take the COVID-19 Vaccine (Yet)
Not everyone should take the vaccine the moment it becomes available, the Expert Committee on Covid-19 Vaccination, a body set up to oversee vaccine strategy in Singapore, said.
According to the committee, the following groups should adopt a wait-and-see approach even if the Covid-19 vaccine is available in Singapore:
- Pregnant ladies
- Children under 16 years old
- People with immuno-compromised conditions
The recommendation by the committee was made because currently, there isn’t enough data on the “safety and efficacy” of the vaccine on these groups.
It was added by the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) that people with a history of anaphylaxis (rapid onset of allergic reaction) should not take the vaccine yet as well.
8. Possible Side Effects
HSA listed down a few possible side effects when the vaccine is administered.
- pain, redness, swelling at the injection site
- muscle ache
- joint pain after vaccination
These are normal, HSA assures, and the side effects usually resolve by themselves in a few days.
For those who experience severe allergic reactions like swelling around the eyes and mouth, have difficulty breathing or is wheezing, they should see a doctor immediately.
9. Pfizer In S’pore
The first batch of the Covid-19 vaccine will be arriving in Singapore by the end of the month.
It’s estimated that by the third quarter of 2021, there will be enough Covid-19 vaccines available for every Singaporean in Singapore (though it’s likely a mixture of other Covid-19 vaccines).
However, getting vaccinated in Singapore will be “optional” and not mandatory.
The multi-ministry task force highlighted that it wouldn’t be prudent to force Singaporeans into getting vaccinated when they’re still studying the drug and side effects.
In addition, the health minister also added that they respect the “people’s choice” even though it is recommended that everyone (who is medically able to) get vaccinated.
One of the challenges, they say, lies with getting the right kind of vaccine for people with different medical conditions to ensure their safety.
Members of the Expert Committee on Covid-19 Vaccination also said the priority groups should be the elderly, the frontline workers and the healthcare workers.
In the coming weeks, the committee will come up with a complete set of recommendations to present to the government.
10. MUIS: Permissible For Use For Muslim Friends
For our Muslim friends, don’t worry because MUIS has announced that the Pfizer-BioNTech Covid-19 Vaccine is permissible to use since it concerns the saving of lives.
The Covid-19 vaccine is considered as a “critical necessity that doesn’t cause harm”, have no known adverse effects and contain ingredients that have been “purified” by the various processes in the making of the vaccine.
11. Should You Get Vaccinated?
To get the jab or not to get the jab, that is the question.
According to an ST report, it all entirely depends on the demographic that you’re in.
If you belong to the high-risk groups, you might want to get vaccinated since you’ll have a higher benefit from not getting infected with Covid-19.
For those who are in low-risk groups, however, you can afford to “wait a few months” so that everyone from the high-risk groups can get the vaccine.
However, you shouldn’t wait too long as more studies are showing that even people in low-risk groups, like young adults, stand the risk of suffering long-term effects from Covid-19 infection.
Some of the effects include the loss of breath, joint pains and even the loss of the sense of taste and smell.
Also, Singapore won’t be depending on just one Covid-19 vaccine and will be looking to get different vaccines into Singapore.
Featured Image: Ascannio / Shutterstock.com