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Source: United Kingdom – Science Media Centre

Pfizer and BioNTech have announced that their vaccine candidate against COVID-19 achieved success in the first interim analysis from the phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial.

Dr Michael Head, Senior Research Fellow in Global Health, University of Southampton, said:

“This cautiously sounds like an excellent result from the phase 3 trials, but we should remain a little cautious.  The provisional findings are made available in a press release, and the study is ongoing.  However, 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.  This has been seen before – the rapidly-produced Ebola vaccine generated very high levels of effectiveness and exceeded all expectations.  Equally, billions of dollars and numerous clinical trials have struggled to produce any form of vaccination against HIV.  Science can be unpredictable.

“If this Pfizer vaccine candidate is licensed, there will be difficulties around logistics and distribution.  It has been reported that the vaccine requires storage at -70 degrees centigrade, and that is not necessarily routinely available in most health centres even in the UK, let alone globally.”

Prof Azra Ghani, Chair in Infectious Disease Epidemiology, Imperial College London, said:

“These new results represent the first demonstration of substantial efficacy of a vaccine candidate against COVID-19 disease which is very welcome news.  It is important to bear in mind that these are early results based on a relatively small number of cases.  In addition, the efficacy estimate is based on 7 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.”

Prof Ian Jones, Professor of Virology, University of Reading, said:

“Of all the current vaccine 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.  The only things we will not know for some time is the longevity of the response in all age groups, but assuming antibody titres are high that should be at least as good as any other vaccine currently in trial.  More generally this would appear to indicate that this approach has legs and is likely to useful for other emerging disease.”

All our previous output on this subject can be seen at this weblink:

Declared interests

Dr Michael Head: “I have no conflicts of interest to declare.”

Prof Azra Ghani: “I don’t think I have any conflicts but note that I am providing advice to WHO and WHO-Europe on vaccine modelling to support allocation.”

Prof Ian Jones: “No conflicts.”

MIL OSI United Kingdom