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Pfizer and BioNTech announce a 'highly effective' vaccine—will you take it?
Do you plan on taking a COVID-19 vaccine?
By Lorelei Yang, Countable News
What's the story?
- On Monday, November 9, Pfizer and partner BioNTech announced that their COVID-19 vaccine is "strongly effective."
- The companies said that an early analysis of the results showed that patients who received two injections of the vaccine three weeks apart experienced more than 90% fewer cases of symptomatic COVID-19 than did those who received a placebo.
Excellent initial findings
- First, the good news: if the current results hold, they're much better than expected for any COVID-19 vaccine. To date, researchers have been warning that a vaccine might only by 60-70% effective.
- A 90% efficacy rate would also be far above the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) bar of 50% efficacy for vaccine makers seeking to submit their candidates for emergency authorization. Additionally, the data thus far suggests that this vaccine candidate is quite safe. No serious safety concerns have been reported yet.
- Pfizer's senior Vice President of vaccine clinical research and development, William Gruber, says:
"I’ve been in vaccine development for 35 years. I’ve seen some really good things. This is extraordinary ... This really bodes well for us being able to get a handle on the epidemic and get us out of this situation.”
Not time to celebrate yet
- Pfizer's news must be taken with a massive grain of salt. For one thing, the Phase 3 safety trial is ongoing, and additional data could affect results. It's also not yet known if the vaccine prevents people from carrying the COVID-19 virus and spreading it as asymptomatic carriers.
- While BioNTech and Pfizer hope to ramp production up to manufacture up to 1.3 billion doses by the end of 2021, this is still far fewer than the number of people who will want and need a vaccine.
- The vaccine needs to be stored at -70 degrees Celsius (-94 F). This aspect of the supply chain will be a major challenge, as even hospitals in big cities don't have storage facilities for a vaccine at this ultra-low temperature. It could also mean that rural areas, nursing homes, less wealthy nations, and hotter nations may not be able to access the vaccine.
When can I get the vaccine?
- As Pfizer plans to apply for emergency authorization in the third week of November, it's possible that the vaccine could be authorized for certain high-risk populations by the end of the year. However, that's assuming that everything goes smoothly from here on out and that there aren't any unforeseen delays.
Can we stop wearing masks yet?
- Even if the vaccine is authorized by the end of this year, it will initially be limited to only those in the most high-risk populations. Health officials think an effective vaccine won't be available to the general public until well into 2021.
- Even once a vaccine is available, it's still unknown whether it will stop asymptomatic spread of COVID-19 or prevent people from developing severe COVID-19.
In the face of all these unknowns, additional measures like masks will remain necessary until the public health threat of COVID-19 has passed.
(Image Credit: iStockphoto.com /
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