‘Promising’ Pfizer vaccine results give ‘ray of hope’ in fight against coronavirus

Published: 9 November 2020, 4:29 PM

Post Desk : Experts today hailed the “promising” news of the Pfizer vaccine results as a “watershed moment” in the fight against Covid-19.

The major breakthrough was announced today after a preliminary analysis from Pfizer and its partner BioNTech found the vaccine to be more than 90 per cent effective.

Experts said the results suggested the inoculation has “really impressive protection”, with suggestions it could speed up the development of other vaccines, paving the way for the rollout of at least one jab in the UK early next year.

Professor Horby, professor of emerging infectious diseases and global health in 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.”

Ian Jones, professor of virology at the University of Reading, said the Pfizer trial data shows “really impressive protection and no reported adverse events”.

He said: “Of all the current vaccines currently in development, the BioNtech product always looked like the most bang-per-buck as it is entirely focused on the part of the virus that binds to the human cell, the receptor binding domain.

“The questions around its use were about the ability to manufacture at scale and the possible toxicity associated with a directly injected RNA product. The trial data show excellent results in both of those areas, really impressive protection and no reported adverse events.”

Professor Sir John Bell, the Regis professor of medicine at Oxford University, said the development could trigger a return to “normal” life by the spring.

“It rolls the pitch for other vaccines… I can’t see any reason why we shouldn’t have a handful of good vaccines now,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

“It’s very important, because there’s no other really obvious way to get on top of this thing frankly.”

Asked if people could look forward to a return to normal life by the spring, Sir John replied: “Yes, yes, yes, yes. I am probably the first guy to say that but I will say that with some confidence.”

Professor Azra Ghani, chair of infectious disease epidemiology at Imperial College London, said that long-term efficacy data would come over coming weeks and months.

Prof Ghani said: “These new results represent the first demonstration of substantial efficacy of a vaccine candidate against Covid-19 disease, which is very welcome news.

“The efficacy estimate is based on seven days of follow-up of participants following the second dose; further data in the coming weeks and months will provide a better picture of longer-term vaccine efficacy.”

But Dr Michael Head, senior research fellow in global health, University of Southampton, urged caution, adding: “This cautiously sounds like an excellent result from the phase three trials, but we should remain a little cautious.

“If the final results show an effectiveness of anywhere near 90% with response in elderly and ethnic minority populations, that is an excellent result for a first generation vaccine.”

Downing Street welcomed the results as “promising” and said the UK will have procured 10 million doses by the end of the year to be given out if it is approved.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “The results are promising and while we are optimistic of a breakthrough, we must remember there are no guarantees.

“We will know whether the vaccine is both safe and effective once the safety data has been published and only then can licensing authorities consider making it available to the public.

“In the meantime, the NHS stands ready to begin a vaccination programme for those most at risk once a Covid-19 vaccine is available before being rolled out more widely.

“In total, we’ve procured 40 million doses of the Pfizer candidate vaccine, with 10 million of those doses being manufactured and available to the UK by the end of the year if the vaccine is approved by the regulators.”

Nicola Sturgeon said the prospect of an effective coronavirus vaccine provides a ray of hope that could help the country emerge from a “pretty dark tunnel”.

The First Minister said the development is “perhaps amongst the best news we’ve had in recent weeks” but cautioned the jab may not provide “a way out of this” until next year.

But the newly-elected US President Joe Biden said the end of the battle against coronavirus is “still months away”.

He said: “I congratulate the brilliant men and woman who helped produce this breakthrough and to give us such cause for hope.

“At the same time, it is also important to understand that the end of the battle against Covid-19 is still months away. This news follows a previously announced timeline by industry officials that force vaccine approval by late November. Even if that is achieved, and some Americans are vaccinated later this year, it will be many more months before there is widespread vaccination in this country.”

About 12 Covid-19 vaccines around the world are currently in the final stages of testing, but Pfizer’s is the first to report any results.

The FTSE 100 jumped more than 5.5 per cent on the news, adding £82 billion to the value of its shares in the market’s best day since March.

The results are based on the first interim analysis of Phase 3 of the study, and evaluated 94 confirmed cases of Covid-19 in trial participants.

The study enrolled 43,538 participants, with 42 per cent having diverse backgrounds, and no serious safety concerns have been observed, the companies report.

They add that safety and additional efficacy data continue to be collected. The case split between vaccinated individuals and those who received the placebo indicates a vaccine efficacy rate above 90 per cent, at seven days after the second dose.

Researchers say this means that protection is achieved 28 days after the initiation of the vaccination, which consists of two doses.

However, they caution that as the study continues the final vaccine efficacy percentage may vary.

The companies plan to apply for emergency approval to use the vaccine by the end of the month. although they have not presented a breakdown of the vaccine’s effectiveness in different age groups.