Pharmaceutical company Pfizer says late-stage testing on its potential COVID-19 vaccine indicates it is more than 90% effective, exceeding expectations and bringing a rare piece of positive news to the fight against the coronavirus.
Pfizer’s chairman and chief executive Albert Bourla, along with Pfizer’s partner, BioNTech, made the announcement Monday regarding the Phase 3, late-stage study of their potential vaccine.
The statement said the study showed the vaccine to be more than 90% effective in preventing the virus in participants without evidence of prior infection in the first interim efficacy analysis.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top infectious disease expert in the United States, said during a Monday press briefing that the results are “just extraordinary.”
“Not very many people expected it would be as high as that,” he said.
Fauci had previously said he was looking for a vaccine with 70% to 75% efficacy and that even 50% was acceptable.
World Health Organization senior adviser Bruce Aylward said the results from Pfizer’s trial are “very positive” and should “hold great promise hopefully for the entire world.”
The Pfizer analysis was conducted by an independent data monitoring board, which examined 94 infections recorded so far in a study that has enrolled nearly 44,000 people in the United States and five other countries. Some patients in the trial received a vaccine, while others were given a placebo.
In his statement, Bourla said the results demonstrate the potential vaccine can help prevent COVID-19 in most of the people who receive it. He cautioned, however, that while this is a critical first step, these efficacy results alone will not allow the companies to apply for U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Emergency Use Authorization.
He said more data on safety is also needed, adding, “We are continuing to accumulate that safety data as part of our ongoing clinical study.
“We estimate that a median of two months of safety data following the second and final dose of the vaccine candidate — required by FDA’s guidance for potential Emergency Use Authorization — will be available by the third week of November,” he said.
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Monday it would take several weeks for U.S. regulators to receive and independently review Pfizer’s data before the government could potentially approve it.
From his Twitter account, U.S. President Donald Trump noted the reported 90 percent efficiency, calling it “SUCH GREAT NEWS,” and that the stock market was “UP BIG” as a result.
President-elect Joe Biden praised the development announced by Pfizer in a statement Monday but warned that the “end of the battle against COVID-19 is still months away.”
The news comes as drugmakers and research centers around the world scramble to deliver a safe and effective vaccine in an attempt to bring an end to the coronavirus pandemic that has claimed more than 1.25 million lives worldwide, according to data by Johns Hopkins University.