Pfizer now has a COVID-19 vaccine that’s more than 90% effective in the fight against virus. The drug making company announced the successful vaccine and its data today. Pfizer made the vaccine with its German partner, BioNTech. It is 90% effective seven days after the second dose. Protection from the virus happens 28 days after the start of vaccination.
The 90% effective rate is surprising. The US Food and Drug Administration, for example, said we’d need a vaccine that’s at least 50% effective. The 90% is surpassing expectations. Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla is calling the COVID-19 vaccine “the greatest medical advance” in the last century. “Emotions are very high,” he told CNN. “You can imagine how I felt when I heard the results yesterday at 2 p.m. I think that likely, based on impact, this will be the greatest medical advance in the last 100 years. It is extraordinary but it’s coming at a time that the world needs it the most.”
Next up, Pfizer will seek emergency use authorization from the FDA. That’ll happen after volunteers have been monitored two months after the second dose. By the third week of November, Pfizer will reach that checkpoint. Dr. Anthony Fauci, who’s the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, called the latest vaccine results “extraordinarily good news!” Fauci has yet to see the data himself, but he’s spoken to Pfizer’s CEO about the results.
Phase 3 of Pfizer’s vaccine trial had 43,538 participants, starting July 27th. On November 8th, 38,955 of the volunteers got their second dose of the vaccine. The pharmaceutical company clarified 42% of international trial sites and 30% of US trial sites focused on an ethnically diverse group of volunteers. The vaccine uses a groundbreaking technology called messenger RNA to produce an immune response in those vaccinated. The genetic material, called mRNA, has cells producing bits of protein that look like the virus. As a result, the immune system recognizes those bits and attacks them.
Many questions remain about the vaccine, though, as Pfizer’s CEO acknowledged. “How long this protection lasts is something we don’t know,” Bourla told CNN. “I think it is a likely scenario that you will need periodical vaccinations. The reason why we selected the RNA technology was exactly that. This is a technology that you can boost without problems of creating antibodies against your vaccine, again and again and again. What we know right now — it is with very, very high level of confidence these are very highly effective vaccines. What we know so far, it means that we don’t have any safety concerns, but we need to wait until the results are there.”
Bourla expects 50 million vaccine doses to reach 50 million people before the end of the year. The CEO expects 1.3 billion doses administered by the end of next year. For American citizens, the vaccine will be free. “Who will get this vaccine? We have two separate manufacturing lines. One is in the US,” Bourla added. “Those we prefer using mainly for Americans. We have already signed contracts with multiple governments in the world and they have placed orders.”
The federal government has invested $1.95 billion in Pfizer to help manufacture over a billion doses by next year. However, the government did not help to test it, and it’s Pfizer distributing the vaccine in the future. President-elect Joe Biden called the vaccine “excellent news” and stressed the importance of wearing masks and social distancing, while Donald Trump tweeted in all caps, “SUCH GREAT NEWS!” Following the announcement of the vaccine and the results of last week’s historic presidential election, the stock market has skyrocketed. Stay tuned for more news on the COVID-19 vaccine.