On Monday, a COVID-19 vaccine made by the drug company Pfizer in conjunction with BioNTech made headlines. An an early analysis released by the drug maker suggested that the vaccine could be more than 90 percent effective in preventing COVID-19.
No doubt it’s promising news—in fact, a CNN report says that Anthony Fauci, M.D., the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, texted CNN and called it “extraordinarily good news.”
The early analysis is of a trial that involved nearly 44,000 subjects; half receiving a placebo and the other half receiving a two-dose regimen of the new vaccine. The report says that 94 people got COVID-19. It’s not clear how many of those received a placebo and not the vaccine, but it would have to be most of them for the reports to claim more than 90 percent efficacy.
The excitement among scientists and the financial sector isn’t just about the robustness of the results. This vaccine uses a new technology, known as mRNA, a gene-based drug technology that has never been used in a vaccine before. So the potential success of this drug is also a huge success for science. The Wall Street Journal quotes Professor John Bell, a UK health-policy advisor involved in the Ozford-AstraZeneca vaccine as saying, “the most important message is that you can make a vaccine against this critter.”
What it means so far
The news is encouraging, but the vaccine is not a panacea yet. The New York Times pointed out on Tuesday that “independent scientists have cautioned against hyping early results before long-term safety and efficacy data has been collected. And no one knows how long the vaccine’s protection might last.
Data hasn’t been released on whether any people in the trial developed milder forms of COVID-19, what kind of side effects are associated with it, and how long protection might last. A few more considerations that moderate enthusiasm for the results: The results were released by the company, not in a medical journal, and the trial hasn’t concluded, so the numbers may change, The New York Times report points out.
If the company does receive emergency authorization of the vaccine after it collects the required amount of safety data, there are still questions and concerns about whether it is effective in all populations, how much vaccine the company can produce and how quickly, who would get it first, how it will be transported and delivered and whether people will accept the vaccine and get it when it’s offered.
What else to know
The news is promising, but there’s more data to come out, and many more problems need to be solved before a vaccine is a reality for most Americans. The pandemic is far from over, and this news doesn’t change that yet. So for now, at a time when there have been about 110,000 COVID-19 cases a day surging in the U.S., it’s still important to wear masks and continue to use social distancing measures and common sense.
Source: Men’s Health