COVID-19 vaccine trial results: a watershed moment says immunology expert

The first effective coronavirus vaccine can prevent more than 90% of people from getting Covid-19, a preliminary analysis has shown. The developers – Pfizer and BioNTech – described it as a “great day for science and humanity”.

The analysis evaluated 94 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in trial participants.

Daniel Davis, Professor of Immunology at The University of Manchester and author of The Beautiful Cure, a book about the immune system said: “This is a watershed moment. For the first time, there is evidence that one of the possible vaccines for COVID-19 can protect people from the disease. It is early days still and it is important to remember that there are caveats: we need to be able scrutinise the data independently, and we don’t yet know how long immunity may last for.

“The safety data isn’t yet sufficiently robust so that this medicine could be approved formally yet. And this type of vaccine also poses particular problems for being distributed around the world because it has to be stored at very cold temperatures. But despite these issues, this is an enormously thrilling moment. As a scientist, I am nervous of over-hyping a medical breakthrough, but this is genuinely a big moment for humankind. This also bodes very well for other candidate vaccines which are undergoing similar tests in people now. At last, it feels like we are turning a corner.”

Jeylan Mammadova, Global Sector Lead at global research firm, Third Bridge, said: “This is a stepping stone vaccine towards a more normal world but it will not be a gamechanger for Pfizer’s bottom line. This is a first-generation vaccine that can help policymakers swing our lives back towards normal but it should be overtaken by more effective and durable second and third-generation vaccines in 2021.

“We anticipate initial market uptake should there be no safety issues. However, the idea of this being the final silver bullet for Covid may be mistaken.   Durability, or how long immunity lasts in vaccine recipients, is a concern with mRNA-based vaccines like Pfizer’s, so we need to be very cautious of the 90% effectiveness rate we’re hearing about. There is also a question mark around whether Pfizer’s vaccine will be as effective amongst the elderly population.”

Speaking about the trial results Dr. Albert Bourla, Pfizer Chairman and CEO, said: “Today is a great day for science and humanity. The first set of results from our Phase III COVID-19 vaccine trial provides the initial evidence of our vaccine’s ability to prevent COVID-19.”

“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,” he added.

Image credit: Hyttalo Souza


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