Pfizer’s Promising mRNA Vaccine Is Welcome News for the Country
The daunting task is to manufacture and distribute millions of doses needed.
On Monday, November 9, 2020, New York-based pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech announced that their experimental vaccine maybe 90% effective against SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). The announcement was a news release, not even a preprint, and did not contain any data or analysis. The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, BNT162b2, is messenger RNA (mRNA) based.
According to ScienceNews, the data came from Phase 3 clinical trials. In the double-blind study, 39,000 of the 43,500 participants in six countries received two injections spaced 21 days apart of either the vaccine or a placebo. Pfizer conducted the interim efficacy study after 94 participants developed COVID-19. Fewer than nine of them received the vaccine. Given the estimate that the vaccine is 90% effective, it is safe to assume very few people who were vaccinated got Covid-19.
To confirm the efficacy rate, Pfizer said it would continue its trial until there were 164 COVID-19 cases among volunteers; a number that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has agreed is enough to tell how well the vaccine is working. Outside experts caution that lacking critical details in the news release; we still do not know how safe the vaccine would be for different age groups. A longer-term study is needed to assess the side effects and other complications.
Moderna, another biotech company developing its mRNA-based vaccine, is expected to release Phase 3 clinical trial data in the coming days. These two announcements, coming days apart, are welcome news to the country reeling with another COVID-19 surge with a record number of new cases (181,194 on Friday) and deaths (1,389). There are currently 68,516 patients hospitalized, of which 13,132 are in ICU and 3,789 on ventilators. (Data Source: Covid Tracking Project).
The old-fashioned approach to vaccine development was to use a weakened or inactivated virus. This process was employed to develop polio and measles vaccines. An article published in the Journal of American Medical Association explains that a person receives part of the coronavirus's genetic code in mRNA…