A vaccine against Covid-19 is in sight, with the announcement of the first interim results in large-scale trials showing the Pfizer/BioNTech candidate is 90% effective, according to the manufacturers. Their analysis shows a much better performance than most experts had hoped for and brings into view a potential end to a pandemic that has killed more than a million people, battered economies and upended daily life worldwide. The company says there have been no serious side-effects while the high percentage of those protected makes the findings especially compelling. Regulators have said they would approve a vaccine that has a far lower 50% effectiveness rate – protecting half of those who get it. Below, The Guardian outlines its success and future trials.
“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, the Pfizer chairman and chief executive.
“We are reaching this critical milestone in our vaccine development programme at a time when the world needs it most with infection rates setting new records, hospitals nearing over-capacity and economies struggling to reopen.”
The trial will continue, meaning there is potential for the efficacy rate to change, but an interim finding that 90% of infections were prevented will excite politicians and public health leaders.
The company says gathering the required safety data will take until the third week of November, after which it will submit a dossier to regulators for approval. Speedy licensing could mean the first doses being given to healthcare workers by the end of the year. However, the data is yet to be peer-reviewed or published in a medical journal. Pfizer said it would do so once it had results from the entire trial. To save time, the companies began manufacturing the vaccine before they knew whether it would work. They now expect to produce up to 50m doses, or enough vaccine to protect 25 million people, this year, and up to to 1.3bn doses in 2021.