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New COVID-19 vaccine prevents 90% of infections

11 November 2020

A COVID-19 vaccine being developed by Pfizer and BioNTech SE prevented more than 90% of infections in a study of tens of thousands of volunteers.

The preliminary results pave the way for the companies to seek an emergency-use authorisation from regulators if further research shows the shot is also safe.

Bloomberg reports that the findings are based on an interim analysis conducted after 94 participants contracted COVID-19. The trial will continue until 164 cases have occurred. 

“This is about the best the news could possibly be for the world and for the United States and for public health,” said William Gruber, Pfizer senior vice president for vaccine clinical research and development. 

With effectiveness for the first vaccines previously expected to be in the range of 60% to 70%, “more than 90% is extraordinary,” BioNTech chief executive officer Ugur Sahin said.

“It shows that COVID-19 can be controlled,” Sahin said in an interview. “At the end of the day, it’s really a victory of science.”

Pfizer expects to get two months of safety follow-up data, a key metric required by US regulators before an emergency authorisation is granted, in the third week of November. If those findings raise no problems, Pfizer believes it can supply 50million doses of the vaccine by the end of 2020, and around 1.3billion by the end of 2021.

The UK has bought 40m doses, including 10m by the end of the year, and if approved it will initially be provided to the elderly, NHS and care homes.

The vaccine is being tested in a two-dose regimen. The trial started in July, and since most participants only received their second dose much more recently, nobody knows how long any protection will last.