Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has announced that its COVID-19 vaccine is 90% effective in the treatment of virus symptoms, marking the most significant vaccine update of 2020.
Pfizer released the results of a study involving 44,000 participants, half of which received a placebo, and the other half receiving a vaccine developed by Pfizer and German company, BioNTech.
They say they’ve noted a 90% efficacy rate in patients that contracted the COVID-19 virus after the 7th day of the second dose of the vaccine. This would mean that a potential COVID-19 vaccine would treat the virus within 28 days of the first dose, in a two-dose program.
So far, 94 COVID-19 infections have reportedly been treated by the vaccine, which the developers have said is nearing its target of 164 successful treatments before submitting it for approval.
Pfizer has said it will continue the trial for another week or so, before submitting the results of its study for peer review, and potentially approval to be rolled out around the world. A report from the ABC says that “the study must include an adequate number of older adults, and people from high risk groups including minorities and people with chronic health problems.”
Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Anthony Fauci has said the efficacy rate of 90% “is just extraordinary,” adding that “not very many people expected it would be as high as that… it’s going to have a major impact on everything we do with respect to COVID.”
Fauci’s comments have caused international markets to jump at the prospect of an effective COVID-19 vaccine, with the S&P 500 rising by 3.3% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average rising more than 1,300 points.
Shares in Pfizer and its German vaccine partners have jumped, too, with Pfizer stock up 11% and BioNTech shares rising by just under 14%.
Pfizer’s Chairman and CEO, Dr Albert Bourla has said that “I think we can see a light at the end of the tunnel… I believe this is likely the most significant medical advance in the last 100 years, if you count the impact this will have on public health, global economy.”
According to a report from CNBC, “scientists are hoping for a coronavirus vaccine that is at least 75% effective, while White House coronavirus advisor Dr Anthony Fauci has said one that is 50% or 60% effective would be acceptable.”
For reference, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – CDC – has said that the measles vaccination is said to be 93% effective, while the influenza, or common cold vaccination is rated at anywhere between 40-60% effective.
Pfizer has estimated that it could produce more than 50 million doses of the vaccine by the end of the year, but is facing a raft of challenges when it comes to the mass-manufacturing and distribution of vaccines that need to be stored in sub-zero temperatures without the ‘cold-chain’ being broken- from manufacture date to patient injection.
Stocks in the airline and cruise industry have jumped upon news of the COVID-19 vaccine being reportedly 90% effective; some jumped by 30%. This is due to the fact that both industries are heavily dependent on a vaccine being rolled out globally before they can operate at pre-pandemic levels.
Chairman and CEO Dr Bourla continued to explain that “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.”
“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,” Bourla said.
“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,” the Pfizer CEO concluded.
Dr Peter Drobac, Director of the Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship at the University of Oxford has told CNBC that “the U.S. FDA set a threshold for 50% effectiveness for a COVID-19 vaccine to merit approval. A 90% effective vaccine would be extraordinary,” he said.
“We’ll need to see the full results subjected to independent review. Let’s take a deep breath, but this is very promising news,” he said.
In August, we reported on the Australian government securing the rights to a potential COVID-19 vaccine that would be given to all Australians for free. The ABC is reporting that Pfizer trial under the umbrella of that agreement, with Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt saying that “the data on our vaccine candidates continues to be positive. We will examine the evidence carefully but the latest results are heartening news.”