Pfizer’s Coronavirus Vaccine May Be 90% Effective, Early Data Suggests

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Pfizer said Monday that an early peek at the data on its coronavirus vaccine suggests the shots may be a surprisingly robust 90% effective at preventing COVID-19, putting the company on track to apply later this month for emergency-use approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

The announcement, less than a week after a presidential election that was seen as a referendum on President Donald Trump’s handling of the crisis, was a rare and major piece of encouraging news lately in the battle against the scourge that has killed more than 1.2 million people worldwide, including almost a quarter-million in the United States alone, with confirmed infections in the U.S. expected to eclipse 10 million on Monday.

“We’re in a position potentially to be able to offer some hope,” Dr. Bill Gruber, Pfizer’s senior vice president of clinical development, told The Associated Press. “We’re very encouraged.”

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Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top-infectious disease expert, said the results suggesting 90% effectiveness are “just extraordinary,” adding: “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 said.

Pharmaceutical companies and various countries are in a global race to develop a vaccine against the virus. Fauci said that the Pfizer vaccine and virtually all others in testing target the spike protein the coronavirus uses to infect cells, so the results validate that approach.

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Monday’s announcement doesn’t mean a vaccine is imminent: This interim analysis, from an independent data monitoring board, looked at 94 infections recorded so far in a study that has enrolled nearly 44,000 people in the U.S. and five other countries. Some participants got the vaccine, while others got dummy shots.

Pfizer Inc. did not provide any more details about those infections and cautioned that the initial protection rate might change by the time the study ends. Even revealing such early data is highly unusual.

Authorities have stressed it’s unlikely any vaccine will arrive much before the end of the year, and initial supplies will be rationed.

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“We need to see the data, but this is extremely promising,” said Dr. Jesse Goodman of Georgetown University, former chief of the FDA’s vaccine division. He ticked off many questions still to be answered, including how long the vaccine’s effects last and whether it protects older people as well as younger ones.

If Pfizer’s vaccine ultimately pans out, “it’s going to be a while before this has a major impact at the population level,” Goodman said.

Canada is among several countries that have signed a deal with Pfizer to secure millions doses of the possible vaccine. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau emphasized Monday the Pfizer vaccine is one of a “broad range” of candidates the government has secured access to, should it ultimately be successful.

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Trudeau called the results “very promising” but acknowledged that distribution will be a challenge. The vaccine must be stored at a specific temperature to be kept stable, which means the logistical distribution will “require some very careful cooperation from provinces and supply chains in order for it to get out to Canadians on a priority basis.”

“We are already working on those necessary logistical supports,” Trudeau told reporters.

“I know we have secured several million doses but that is nothing but a first batch, of course,” he said in French. “If things go well, we will buy even more when more doses become available.”

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Author: Linda A. Johnson and Lauran Neegaard
Publication: The Associated Press
Title: Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine may be 90% effective, early data suggests

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