Pfizer and its partner BioNTech announced a major breakthrough earlier on Monday after a preliminary analysis found the vaccine to be more than 90 percent effective in preventing Covid-19, based on 94 cases of the disease observed in the study.
The study compared tens of thousands of volunteers who received two doses of the experimental vaccine against a group receiving a saltwater placebo.
Next, Pfizer plans to apply for emergency authorization that would allow it to distribute the shot more widely. The New York pharmaceutical giant still needs more data on the safety of the vaccine before filing for the emergency OK, and it has said it wouldn't have the necessary information until later this month.
The promising result is the first of its kind from a pivotal trial of a Covid-19 vaccine. Shares of Pfizer and BioNTech soared in premarket trading Monday morning, celebrating the unprecedented success of the vaccine as an important piece to confronting the pandemic.
While the study is still ongoing and will collect follow-up safety and efficacy data, the primary conclusion from an interim analysis is that the vaccine works.
“Today is a great day for science and humanity,” Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla disclosed in a statement. “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.”
Experts believe the results suggest the inoculation has “really impressive protection,” with suggestions it could speed up the development of other vaccines, setting the pace for the rollout of at least one jab in the UK early next year.
Questions, however, remain as to how long the vaccine will work for and whether any rare, yet adverse effects have yet to be detected. Pfizer's vaccine will also pose serious logistical challenges as it needs to be stored and shipped at minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit. CDC reports have estimated the US will have a supply of about 20 to 30 million doses of Pfizer's vaccine in 2020, translating to enough doses to vaccinate less than 10% of the US population.
Professor Horby, professor of emerging infectious diseases and global health at the Nuffield Department of Medicine at the University of Oxford, said: "This news made me smile from ear to ear. It is a relief to see such positive results on this vaccine and bodes well for Covid-19 vaccines in general. Of course, we need to see more detail and await the final results, and there is a long, long way to go before vaccines will start to make a real difference. But this feels to me like a watershed moment."
However, the vaccine is not expected to be available to everyone at once even if it gets emergency use approval. The first set of people eligible to get the shots maybe those at high-risks of falling ill, such as frontline healthcare workers and older people.