Pfizer announced on Monday that its coronavirus vaccine developed with BioNTech SE prevented 90 percent of infections in a trial with tens of thousands of volunteers, in a major step toward authorization of a vaccine for general use.
The Pfizer vaccine trial enrolled 44,000 participants in total, with no serious safety issues arising from the vaccine itself. Trials will continue until at least 164 participants become sick with at least one symptom of coronavirus, and full data for the vaccine’s efficacy was still incomplete as of Monday. The duration of immunity caused by the vaccine is as yet unknown.
However, Pfizer said it could ask the Food and Drug Administration by the end of November for emergency authorization of the vaccine.
“This is about the best the news could possibly be for the world and for the United States and for public health,” William Gruber, Pfizer senior vice president for vaccine clinical research and development, said in a statement
The vaccine utilizes mRNA—molecular couriers that carry genetic messages—to cause cells in the body to build a specific protein found in coronavirus, which in turn causes the body to produce antibodies and immunizes the patient. The use of mRNA in vaccines constitutes a new technology that has only in the last several years been developed effectively.
With just 94 participants in the trial infected with coronavirus, the vaccine is proving much more effective than was initially hoped. Researchers expected new coronavirus vaccines to be about 60 to 70 percent effective.
BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin commented that the 90 percent rate of effectiveness was “extraordinary.”
“It shows that Covid-19 can be controlled,” Sahin told Bloomberg.
Pfizer and BioNTech have said that 50 million doses of the vaccine will be produced by the end of 2020, with another 1.3 billion by the end of 2021.