Ever since the coronavirus emerged and started wreaking havoc on the globe, researchers have been scrambling to develop a Covid-19 vaccine.
This is no easy task, as developing a vaccine is normally a long and complex process which can even last 10 to 15 years.
This is because it has to go through several clinical trials where it’s tested on a large group of people who are then observed for adverse effects.
So, naturally, when Donald Trump said a vaccine would be ready this year, we found it hard to believe, mostly because it came out of his mouth.
But it unlike 97% of the things he says, this claim may be true after all.
Pfizer Vaccine 90% Effective
Pfizer’s new experimental Covid-19 vaccine has been found to be more than 90% effective, the company announced on Monday (9 Nov).
Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech said they have found no serious safety concerns thus far and expect to seek approval from the US authorities this month for emergency use.
This is a significant development on the Covid-19 front as these companies are the first drugmakers to release successful data from a large-scale clinical trial of a coronavirus vaccine.
“Today is a great day for science and humanity,” said Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s chairman and CEO.
44,000 People Across Six Countries Involved in 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.
This could explain why news of the Pfizer vaccine sent US stocks to record highs.
Won’t Be Readily Available Soon
Here comes a reality check.
Yes, this vaccine is certainly promising, but it won’t be available at pharmacies in the US or other countries any time soon.
There are two reasons for this.
For one, regulators need to sign off on the vaccine before it can be widely distributed.
Secondly, this vaccine, uniquely, requires super-cold storage requirements – shots will spoil at normal refrigeration temperatures within five days.
This could present a problem for poorer countries and even the most sophisticated hospitals in the US, which may not possess such storage facilities.
Plan to Deliver 100 Million Vaccines This Year
Despite these difficulties, the companies plan to deliver 100 million vaccine doses starting this year.
They have already signed a US$1.95 billion contract with the US government.
Since the Covid-19 outbreak in the US is severe, manufacturers are hoping that governments across the globe will allow emergency use of the vaccine, while testing continues.
Others, however, believe this will only undermine public confidence in the vaccine, and make it difficult to determine its efficacy.
Will the US and other countries go ahead with this vaccine before the study ends? We’ll have to wait and see.
Featured Image: Ascannio / Shutterstock.com
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