Pfizer and partner BioNTech made headlines this week after announcing that their Covid-19 vaccine was testing to be 90% effective; more than any other vaccine currently in a late-stage trial throughout the world. The news is still preliminary and a lot of questions are still unanswered, however, there is a decent amount of information that Pfizer and BioNTech has released in regards to their vaccine that could help ease some of those curiosities.
In July, Pfizer and BioNTech began their late-stage clinical trial on their Covid vaccine. Like many of the trials currently occurring around the world, half the participants were given the vaccine, and the other half were given a saltwater placebo injection. Of the 44,000 individuals involved in the study only 94 have gotten sick with the coronavirus. When the board reviewed how many individuals got the vaccine versus the placebo, the results showed that the vaccine was over 90% effective.
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said that a Covid-19 vaccine will only need to be 50% effective to be approved for emergency authorization. To make sense of the percentages, for reference, the flu vaccine fluctuates between 40% to 60% in efficiency every year. This means that it only fully protects between 40% – 60% of people who get the vaccine, however, it will likely minimize the intensity of the virus in everyone who receives it. These percentages fluctuate based on how bad the season is and how much the virus itself strengthens as time progresses.
Pfizer and BioNTech haven’t reported any serious safety concerns as a result of their vaccine either, which is why the companies are so enthusiastic about the success of it. The chief executive of Pfizer said it could have 30-40 million doses of the vaccine before the end of 2020; that would be enough for 15-20 million people to get their initial shot and booster three weeks later.
Who will receive the initial doses is unclear, however, it’s been generally understood throughout the world that healthcare providers and other workers who are in more vulnerable positions will receive the initial rounds of the vaccine. The two companies predict they would be able to produce and distribute up to 1.3 billion doses a year, and while that may not be enough for the world’s entire population, other vaccines will likely appear during that time as well.
Pfizer is applying for emergency authorization in the third week of November, after it submits at least two months of safety data to the FDA. Depending on how that authorization goes, higher risk populations could get vaccinated by the end of the year.
One of the biggest open questions in regard to this vaccine is how it will impact individuals of different ages. The trial itself had participants that aged from 18 to over 65, however, as time went on they began including kids between the ages of 12 and 18 to make sure there weren’t any irregularities. So far, the companies have reported that the vaccine will likely protect everyone the same.
In July, Pfizer received a $1.95 billion deal from the US government under Operation Warp Speed, the effort to rush a vaccine to the market, that entailed providing 100 million doses of the vaccine to US residents. While there has been some lack of clarity as to how well this deal has been able to hold, a spokesperson for Pfizer claimed on Monday that the company is a part of Operation Warp Speed.
While this news from Pfizer and BioNTech is a huge sigh of relief, the world still has some ways to go, but we are on the right path. Continue to wear your mask and social distance every time you’re in a public setting and listen to your healthcare provider’s advice. As long as we keep abiding by the guidelines and waiting for the vaccine to be approved, this will all be over before we know it.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.