The search for a COVID-19 vaccine has been ongoing for several months. As the US hits 10 million cases and reaches nearly 250,000 deaths, the news that Pfizer has developed an effective vaccine came as a huge boost.
The US markets soared shortly after the announcement and while there have been a few setbacks in the development of this vaccine, it seems Pfizer is really on to something here.
The pharmaceutical company says the vaccine proved 90% effective in the first round of clinical trials done. According to the FDA, a vaccine must be at least 50% effective to get approved.
It seems the Pfizer one is way above that threshold. What makes this story more promising is the fact that Pfizer decided to do a large clinical trial. It covered over 42,000 people, something completely unprecedented in the development of a vaccine like this.
However, we must note that the US pharmaceutical company has only released a portion of its data. The findings of the first trials are also yet to be reviewed by independent scientists.
While we are happy that indeed the world is making massive strides in getting the first Coronavirus vaccine, we must urge caution as we await the entire process to be completed. Pfizer, in fact, admitted that it’s still gathering more data on the trials and warned that the efficacy rate of the vaccine may change as more information becomes available.
The company is partnering with BioNtech for this project. The two firms are using an unproven gene-based technology in the development of the vaccine. Simply put, this process works by introducing a small snippet of the coronavirus genetic material into the body to induce an immune response. It’s a modern way of developing vaccines.
It’s also emerging that any gene-based vaccine has to be stored under ultra-cold temperatures, something that will pose massive challenges when we finally begin transporting doses across the world. Pfizer also notes that at least two doses of the vaccine will be needed. The company estimates that an adequate immune response will come seven days after the second dose is administered.
However, we didn’t see any details about just how much protection patients will get or whether more doses may be needed in the future.
The FDA still has the final say on whether the vaccine will be produced for the mass market. FDA rules state that any drug needs to be safe and effective. So far, the Pfizer vaccine ticks both these boxes quite well. After all, we haven’t heard of any side effects reported so far.
If indeed the vaccine is approved by the FDA, it will be a huge boost for Pfizer and BioNtech. The two companies already have an agreement with the US federal government to produce over 600 million doses, something that will cost around $1.9 billion.
Both companies also note that they have enough capacity to manufacture at least 50 million doses this year and another 1.3 billion by the end of 2021.