The race to develop a safe and effective Covid-19 vaccine may be nearing the finish line, according to an announcement from Pfizer and BioNTech Monday morning, with early data from their promising vaccine candidate showing that it could be 90% effective at preventing the disease with no serious safety concerns observed.
- The positive results mean the companies are likely on track to meet their mid-November goal of filing for emergency regulatory approval in the U.S., which CEO Albert Bourla announced a month ago.
- The findings come from a preliminary analysis — undertaken by an independent data monitoring board — of a study that has enrolled over 43,000 people to test the two-dose Covid-19 vaccine.
- The early results, which may change as the trial continues, are far better than many had expected, with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration signalling that it would accept a Covid-19 vaccine effective in only half of those vaccinated.
- The study will continue until 164 infections have been recorded, the company said, with 94 infections reported to date.
- Ugur Sahin, co-founder and CEO of BioNTech, said the findings are “a victory for innovation, science and a global collaborative effort.”
- With the trial ongoing, these findings have not yet been peer reviewed or opened up for scrutiny, with Pfizer saying it intends to do so once the entire trial has finished.
Pfizer’s CEO Albert Bourla said he would like to ease public concerns over vaccine safety by being one of the first to be vaccinated.
With global Covid-19 cases now at the grim milestone of 50 million, a safe and reliable vaccine would be the best and fastest way to bring the pandemic to heel. To date, no vaccines have been approved outside of Russia and China. Pfizer is a frontrunner in the race to develop a safe and effective vaccine, a status these early results solidify, with other manufacturers following closely, including AstraZeneca, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson. Though emergency approval may be near, it could still be some time before vaccines are rolled out across the world. While many producers, Pfizer included, are already ramping up production, there are a host of logistical and policy issues that must also be dealt with in order to vaccinate effectively. On a global level, the worry is that wealthy nations will hoard vaccine supplies and leave poorer countries unprotected, something WHO head Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus calls “vaccine nationalism.”
In a press release announcing the early findings, Bourla said that “today is a great day for science and humanity,” with the company “reaching this critical milestone in our vaccine development program at a time when the world needs it most.” With the findings, Bourla said the company is “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.”
The World Health Organization is investigating mink farming around the world over concerns that the animals might pass dangerous new Covid-19 strains on to humans, some of which could threaten the effectiveness of vaccines currently in development. Denmark ordered the cull of its entire mink herd for this reason, with at least 214 infected with mink-related Covid-19 since June.