Pfizer Inc said Monday its experimental COVID-19 vaccine was more than 90% effective, a major victory in the fight against a pandemic that has killed more than a million people, affected the global economy and changed daily lives.
Pfizer and the German partner BioNTech SE are the first drug manufacturers to publish successful data from a large-scale clinical trial with a coronavirus vaccine. The companies said they had not identified any serious safety concerns so far and expect to seek US approval for the emergency vaccine this month.
Health experts said Pfizer’s results for all COVID-19 vaccines currently under development were positive as they show that the shots are on target and are evidence that vaccination can stop the disease.
“Today is a great day for science and humanity,” said Albert Bourla, Pfizer chairman and chief executive officer.
“We are reaching this critical milestone in our vaccine development program at a time when the world needs it most, as infection rates are breaking new records, hospitals are on the verge of overcapacity, and economies are struggling to reopen.”
When the vaccine is approved by Pfizer, the number of doses is initially limited and many questions remain, including how long the vaccine will be protected.
Ugur Sahin, chief executive of BioNTech, told Reuters that he was optimistic that the vaccine’s immunizing effects will last for a year, although it is not yet certain.
“This news made me smile from ear to ear. It’s a relief to see such positive results with this vaccine, and it’s a good sign for COVID-19 vaccines in general,” said Peter Horby, professor of new Emerging Infectious Diseases at Oxford University.
The prospect of a vaccine electrified world markets, with the S&P 500 futures hitting record highs and tourism and travel shares rising. Stocks of companies that have benefited from pandemic lockdowns fell, including conference platform Zoom Video Communications, which fell 12% in premarket trading.
Pfizer stock rose 14.2% in pre-market trading in New York, while BioNTech stock in Frankfurt rose nearly 23%.
“Light at the end of the tunnel. Let’s just hope the vaccine deniers don’t get in the way, but it got a lot brighter in 2021,” said Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at Markets.com
The shares of other vaccine developers in the final test phase also rose, with Johnson & Johnson gaining 4% in pre-market trading and Moderna gaining 7.4%. The British AstraZeneca lost 0.5%.
“The efficacy data is really impressive. This is better than most of us expected,” said William Schaffner, an infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University’s medical school in Nashville, Tennessee. “The study is still ongoing, but the data looks very solid nonetheless.”
US President Donald Trump hailed the test results and the market surge: “STOCK MARKET LARGE, VACCINE COMING SOON. REPORT 90% EFFECTIVE. SO BIG NEWS!” he said on Twitter.
President-elect Joe Biden said the news was excellent but didn’t change the fact that face masks, social distancing and other health measures would be required well into next year.
1.3 billion cans
Pfizer expects to obtain comprehensive US approval for the emergency use of the vaccine for people aged 16 to 85 years. This will require two months of safety data from around half of the 44,000 participants in the study, which is expected by the end of this month.
“I’m almost excited,” said Bill Gruber, one of Pfizer’s top vaccine scientists, in an interview. “This is a great day for public health and the potential to bring us all out of the circumstances we are in now.”
Pfizer and BioNTech have signed a $ 1.95 billion contract with the US government to supply 100 million doses of vaccine starting this year. They also have supply agreements with the European Union, the United Kingdom, Canada and Japan.
To save time, companies started making the vaccine before they knew if it would be effective. They reckon with up to 50 million doses now, or enough to protect 25 million people this year.
Pfizer expects to produce up to 1.3 billion doses of the vaccine by 2021.
The US pharmaceutical company said the interim analysis was done after 94 participants in the study developed COVID-19 to look at how many of them had received the vaccine versus a placebo.
The company has not broken down exactly how many of the sick received the vaccine. However, efficacy greater than 90% implies that no more than 8 of the 94 people who caught COVID-19 had received the vaccine, given in two shots about three weeks apart.
The rate of effectiveness is well above the 50% effectiveness required by the US Food and Drug Administration for a coronavirus vaccine.
MORE DATA NEEDED
To confirm the rate of effectiveness, Pfizer said the study would continue until there were 164 COVID-19 cases among participants. Bourla told CNBC on Monday that the study could be completed before the end of November due to rising infection rates.
The data has yet to be reviewed by experts or published in a medical journal. Pfizer said it would do so once the results of the entire trial were in.
“These are interesting initial signals, but they are only communicated in press releases,” said Marylyn Addo, Head of Tropical Medicine at the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf in Germany.
“Primary data is not yet available and a peer-reviewed release is pending. We have to wait for the exact data before we can make a final assessment.”
In the global race for a vaccine, wealthier countries have signed multi-billion dollar supply deals with drug makers like Pfizer, AstraZeneca Plc and Johnson & Johnson, raising questions about when the middle income and poorer nations will get access to vaccines.
The U.S. search for a vaccine has been the Trump administration’s central response to the pandemic. The United States has the highest known number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the world, with more than 10 million infections and over 237,000 deaths.
Trump repeatedly assured the public that his administration will likely identify a successful vaccine in time for the presidential election last Tuesday. Democratic rival Biden was declared the winner on Saturday.
Vaccines are seen as essential tools in ending the health crisis that closed businesses and left millions of people unemployed. Millions of children whose schools closed in March remain in distance learning programs.
Dozens of drug manufacturers and research groups around the world have tried to develop vaccines against COVID-19, which had more than 50 million infections on Sunday since the new coronavirus first appeared in China late last year.
Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine uses messenger RNA (mRNA) technology, which is based on synthetic genes that can be created and manufactured in weeks, and made on a larger scale than traditional vaccines.
Moderna Inc, whose vaccine candidate uses similar technology, is expected to release the results of its large-scale study later this month.
MRNA technology was developed to trigger an immune response without using pathogens such as actual virus particles.
Pfizer alone will not be able to deliver enough vaccines to the United States immediately. The Trump administration has announced that it will have enough supplies for every 330 million U.S. residents who want to be vaccinated by mid-2021.
The US government has announced that the vaccines will be made available free of charge to Americans, including the insured, uninsured, and those in government health programs like Medicare.
(Except for the headline, this story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and posted from a syndicated feed.)