As the U.S. contends with a grim rise in coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, and deaths, the good vaccine news keeps on coming.
On Wednesday, Pfizer announced that it had completed its late-stage vaccine trials, and found that its vaccine is both safe and 95 percent effective. It is the latest sign that the innovative approach major pharmaceutical companies are taking with vaccine development is wildly exceeding most observers’ expectations.
Pfizer said that the vaccine, which it developed along with BioNTech, caused no serious side effects, and was 94 percent effective in older adults — the group most at risk for the virus. Among the 44,000 people enrolled in the trial, data showed a wide gap between those who were given the vaccine and those who took a placebo:
The data has not been peer-reviewed, and the public is relying on Pfizer to accurately convey results. The company had earlier said that the vaccine was more than 90 percent effective in early data.
On Monday, competitor Moderna announced that preliminary results showed its vaccine, which uses a similar approach to Pfizer’s, was 94.5 percent effective. Taken together, the news raises the possibility that several companies will eventually produce working vaccines, which could help ease the many logistical hurdles that loom in distributing doses around the country and world. One challenge is that both companies’ doses involve two shots, which must be administered weeks apart.
Pfizer says it will apply to the FDA for emergency authorization of the vaccine in the coming days. It has previously stated that it might have up to 50 million doses ready by the end of the year, but only half of those doses will go to high-risk Americans in 2020. Even in a best-case scenario, it will be many months before the general population has the opportunity to be immunized against COVID-19.