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Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine is 90% effective, seen as ‘light at the end of the tunnel’

By Tanya Lara Published Nov 10, 2020 2:49 am

The news the world has been waiting for was finally announced yesterday.

Pfizer and its collaborator, German company BioNTech, announced that their vaccine candidate was found to be more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 in Phase 3 late-stage trials.

Pfizer unblinded the safety data of the two-shot vaccine, which was given to 44,000 trial volunteers. It showed that patients who received two injections of the vaccine three weeks apart experienced more than 90% fewer cases of symptomatic Covid-19 than those who received a placebo.

Pfizer chairman and CEO Dr. Albert Bourl said on CNBC, “It’s a great day for science. It is a great day for humanity. When you realize that your vaccine has a 90% effectiveness, that’s overwhelming. I think we can see a light at the end of the tunnel.”

When will it be available?

“We are aware that the demand will be much higher than anything we can produce,” Pfizer chairman and CEO Dr. Albert Bourl said.

According to Bourl, there will be 50 million doses available before the end of the year and 1.3 billion doses in 2021.

“We already started the manufacturing sometime back,” he said. Pfizer plans to ramp up manufacturing in the second half of 2021 to produce 1.3 billion doses next year.

“We are aware that the demand will be much higher than anything we can produce. We are also looking right now to see if there are other ways of thinking out of the box (to) increase this even further.”

Pfizer has two manufacturing lines. One in the US with sites in Massachusetts, Missouri and Michigan; and another in Europe with manufacturing sites in Germany and Belgium.

With two doses needed for each person, Pfizer’s projected production of 1.3 billion doses next year will vaccinate 650 million people.

The potential vaccine was also welcome news to stock markets around the world with the S&P 500 and Dow hitting record highs.

Who will get the vaccine first?

As of today, Nov. 10, there are 51.2 million coronavirus cases in the world and 1.2 million deaths. In the Philippines, the number of cases is almost 400,000 with 7,647 deaths.

The European Union will buy 300 million doses of Pfizer’s vaccine. It has also signed supply deals with AstraZeneca, Sanofi and Johnson & Johnson.

In August, the US signed a $1.5 billion contract with US biotech company Moderna for 100 million doses of vaccine, the sixth deal the government reached since May.

US Vice President Mike Pence said on Twitter that Pfizer benefited from the “public-private partnership forged by President Donald Trump.”

That’s not true, Bloomberg reported. “Funding came from Berlin, not Washington…. The truth is that Pfizer didn’t receive any funding from Operation Warp Speed for the development, clinical trial and manufacturing of the vaccine. Rather, its partner, BioNTech SE, has received money ($445 million)—from the German government.”

With two doses needed for each person, Pfizer’s projected production of 1.3 billion doses next year will vaccinate 650 million people.

Governments around the world have signed deals with multiple pharma and biotech companies since the early stages of their vaccine development.

In the Philippines, President Rodrigo Duterte appointed Secretary Carlito Galvez last week as head of the country’s coronavirus vaccine program.

Galvez said that as “vaccine czar,” he will be a “milestone keeper, integrator, and synchronizer” of all agencies involved in the distribution of the vaccine.

WHO, Dr. Fauci on Pfizer news

WHO chief Tedros Ghebreyesus hailed the news as “encouraging.” “We salute all scientists and partners around the world who are developing new, safe, efficacious tools to beat COVID-19,” he said in a tweet.

Top infectious diseases expert Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, “It’s extraordinary. It really is a big deal. Obviously we need to go over the details of the data, but this is a highly reputable company that has extensive experience in the development of counter measures including vaccines. The Data Safety and Monitoring Board, which independently looks at the data, has told us, ‘We have a vaccine that is more than 90 percent effective.’ The bottom line is, as a vaccine it’s more than 90% effective, which is extraordinary.”

Fauci added that it’s likely that the world will have more than one vaccine that is effective. “There is another company, Moderna, who has a vaccine very similar, if not identical to this, their results will be coming out soon.”

Moderna completed enrolling 30,000 volunteers for its Phase 3 trial last month.

Other vaccines in development are from AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, and Novavax.