All major pharmacies across the globe have been scrambling to come up with a vaccine that can end the COVID menace. Just when people were beginning to get desperate, US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced in October that their vaccine candidate is almost ready and can be rolled out by the end of 2020. The common people were delighted, but some medical experts expressed their doubts about this vaccine’s effectiveness. But now Pfizer has published an update. Their vaccine is 90% effective. So what does this mean for the world?
The Pfizer vaccine update
Pfizer has been working on a vaccine, BNT162b2, with BioNTech, a German firm. It began phase 3 human trials on July 27 this year. The Pfizer vaccine uses the mRNA technique to instruct the body to create antibodies against COVID-19. There are two advantages associated with the Pfizer vaccine.
1. The mRNA technology does not require the virus to be cultivated and replicated for the vaccine to be developed. Only the code is needed, and since this vaccine is synthetically developed, it can be produced quickly.
2. This Pfizer vaccine can be produced on large scales in huge containers called bioreactors.
90% effectiveness- what does that imply?
The most recent Pfizer vaccine update is that the company has recently published the preliminary data from its last human trial stage. The efficacy analysis shows that the Pfizer vaccine is 90% effective. That means the vaccine could prevent COVID infection in 90% of the cases among people who were given the vaccine as opposed to people who were given a placebo (a dummy vaccine). Another piece of good news is that the results have shown that there are no serious side effects or safety concerns.
Pfizer will soon be submitting its vaccine to the Food and Drug Administration (the drug regulatory body of the US) for approval. Once that is granted, Pfizer will apply for emergency authorization to bring the Pfizer vaccine to the market.
Does that mean that COVID is over?
The Pfizer vaccine may or may not be approved by the FDA.
What goes in its favor is the 90% efficacy statistic because the FDA and other international drug regulatory organisations have stated that it has to be more than 50% effective for any vaccine to be approved. Pfizer’s vaccine meets this criterion. On top of that, the vaccine can be speedily produced in huge quantities.
The FDA might not grant emergency authorization immediately because the data published by Pfizer analyzed only 94 people among the 40,000 volunteers who were vaccinated during Pfizer’s trial. Officials at Pfizer have themselves stated that they don’t expect authorization on the back of so little data. That is why they will continue to collect data. And by the 3rd week of November, Pfizer will submit statistics for two months of analysis.
Will the 90% effective Pfizer vaccine be available in India?
It’s too early to say whether India will get the Pfizer vaccine if it’s approved. By now, Pfizer has reached an agreement with the US, Japan, UK, and some countries of the EU to supply them with the vaccine. No formal deal has been reached between India and Pfizer.
For the Pfizer vaccine to be launched in India, Pfizer or BioNTech would have to approach India’s Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation. Trials will need to be conducted in India, and only then will the vaccine be available in Indian markets. But, India has two indigenous vaccines in the pipeline. Even if the Pfizer vaccine doesn’t get approval, we can always rely on our vaccine candidates.
Until a vaccine is ready, let us all continue to observe the COVID protocol to keep our loved ones, our country people, and ourselves safe.