New covid-19 vaccine, 90% effective preliminary results

A jointly developed vaccine between US firm Pfizer and German company BioNTech has proven 90% effective in preventing Covid-19 infections. The results are according to phase 3 trials. 

The duo described the newly developed vaccine as ‘strongly effective’ and ‘exceeding expectations’.

The vaccine is the first to undergo testing in the United States and generate late-stage data. Those who received two injections of the vaccine within a 3-week span experienced 90% fewer instances of symptomatic covid-19 when compared to others on a placebo test.

Both Pfizer and BioNTech use mRNA technology that causes the body to produce a genetic material that prompts the body to produce a protein that learns to attack the virus. Most vaccines in late-stage development use genetically engineered viruses, or directly injected proteins. No mRNA product has ever been authorized by regulators.  

Scientists across the world are pleased with the breakthrough given vaccines were previously expected to deliver 60% to 70% effectiveness. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, described the news as “extraordinary”. In a Twitter share, Pfizer gave three conditions that must be met before they file for Emergency Use Authorization; safety data, consistent manufacturing, and efficacy on the majority of the participants. 

EU awaiting more information 

Jens Spahn, the German Health Minister said the European Union will take a guarded approach to ensure the broadest possible acceptance of the vaccine based on late-stage safety data. 

Despite the positive results and excitement over the news, key information about the vaccine remains hidden from the public. There is no proof as to whether the vaccine prevents severe cases that result in hospitalizations and death. 

Read more: Oxford University vaccine looks promising in the battle against covid-19

It’s worth pointing out the vaccine has only been studied for a few months. Going by published data, reports indicate a few side effects such as aches and fevers, which are relatable to standard adult vaccines. 

Results are yet to be peer-reviewed by external scientists or published in any medical journal. Both companies behind the vaccine are yet to be fed with additional information by the independent monitors overseeing the studies. 

Roll out of the vaccine

Once the vaccine is authorized, the initial supply rollout will be limited to 50 million doses by end of 2020. However, this can be ramped up to 1.3 billion by end of 2021. As expected of any undertaking of such magnitude, distribution challenges are to be expected. The vaccines need to be stored in super-cold temperatures which might slow or even complicate distribution in certain areas. 

Read more: UK study shows that covid-19 antibodies decrease over a three-month period

Market reaction

Progress on the vaccine is ongoing as it carries on in its third phase.  While results are thus far deemed preliminary, Pfizer’s shares rose by 15% and were trading 8.8% higher by 3:14 pm. BioNTech American depositary receipts surged at 24%.