Pharmaceutical giants Pfizer and AstraZeneca are battling against each other to produce and release their Covid-19 vaccine as early and to as many people around the world as possible. As countries continue to struggle with the global pandemic, both companies are working to secure contracts and ensure their vaccines are as effective as possible.
A much better than expected efficacy has been cited by Covid-19 vaccine manufacturer Pfizer after the pharmaceutical company studied its initial trial data. The firm has said that the vaccine, which will be distributed around the world, has so far shown that it is more than 90% effective. However, AstraZeneca’s Oxford vaccine is now thought to be cheaper to distribute and administer than the Pfizer vaccine and there are some indications that it could be ready by Christmas.
The Oxford vaccine uses a weakened version of a common cold virus that normally causes infections in chimpanzees but has been genetically altered so that it is impossible for it to grow in humans. Pfizer’s vaccine, meanwhile, is based on part of Covid-19’s genetic code. It uses this to prepare cells to produce the necessary antibodies if the patient does become infected.
“Today is a great day for science and humanity. The first set of results from our Phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial provides the initial evidence of our vaccine’s ability to prevent COVID-19,” said Dr. Albert Bourla, Pfizer Chairman and CEO.
“We are reaching this critical milestone in our vaccine development program at a time when the world needs it most with infection rates setting new records, hospitals nearing over-capacity and economies struggling to reopen. With today’s news, we are 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. We look forward to sharing additional efficacy and safety data generated from thousands of participants in the coming weeks.”
“I want to thank the thousands of people who volunteered to participate in the clinical trial, our academic collaborators and investigators at the study sites, and our colleagues and collaborators around the world who are dedicating their time to this crucial endeavor,” added Bourla. “We could not have come this far without the tremendous commitment of everyone involved.
The announcement comes after the conclusion of Pfizer’s first interim efficacy analysis, which was completed last week. Results of the analysis were naturally highly anticipated from inside the company of Pfizer and even across the world as governments continue to struggle with the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The vaccine candidate was found to be more than 90% effective in preventing Covid-19 in participants without evidence of prior SARS-CoV-2 infection, which is a higher number than Pfizer was anticipating.
Based on this initial efficacy analysis, Pfizer have announced their intention to submit an application for Emergency Use Authorization to the US Food and Drug Administration for their vaccine in the third week of November. This timeline, however, is dependent on a number of other safety milestones being first met by the pharmaceutical giant.
Clinical trials will continue until Pfizer’s conclusionary analysis at 164 confirmed cases of coronavirus. These trials are conducted in order to carry on collecting relevant data and to measure and compare the potential vaccine’s performance against previous data.
“The first interim analysis of our global Phase 3 study provides evidence that a vaccine may effectively prevent COVID-19. This is a victory for innovation, science and a global collaborative effort,” said Prof. Ugur Sahin, BioNTech co-founder and CEO.
“When we embarked on this journey 10 months ago this is what we aspired to achieve. Especially today, while we are all in the midst of a second wave and many of us in lockdown, we appreciate even more how important this milestone is on our path towards ending this pandemic and for all of us to regain a sense of normality. We will continue to collect further data as the trial continues to enroll for a final analysis planned when a total of 164 confirmed COVID-19 cases have accrued. I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to make this important achievement possible.”
Pfizer have said that they expect to produce more than 50 million vaccines for the global market this year, with 1.3 billion the expected figure for 2021. Pfizer’s vaccine has not been supported by Operation Warp Speed, the US government’s coronavirus vaccine effort, but the federal government has invested almost $2 billion in Pfizer’s vaccine in order to help the company produce more than a billion doses by next year. Pfizer has tested the vaccine alone, however, and has said it intends to distribute the vaccine itself.
President-elect Joe Biden declared that the Pfizer announcement is “excellent news,” but warned that mask wearing and social distancing will continue to be necessary.
“How long this protection lasts is something we don’t know,” Bourla told CNN in an interview.
“I think it is a likely scenario that you will need periodical vaccinations,” Bourla told Gupta. “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.”