Representational Image
Representational Image
Retha Ferguson

Finally, there is an effective coronavirus vaccine that may be 90 per cent effective at preventing COVID-19.

Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech are the first drug makers to come up with successful data from a large-scale clinical trial of a coronavirus vaccine.

The study is ongoing and has been tested on more than 43,000 people in six countries. Most important, no health concerns were voiced.

Two doses, three weeks apart, are needed. The trials - in US, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa and Turkey - show 90% protection is achieved seven days after the second dose.

After Monday’s announcement, stock markets around the world surged. Scientists said the news was a breakthrough in the global race to develop a jab to try and stop the pandemic. The developers - Pfizer and BioNTech - described it as a "great day for science and humanity".

Pfizer did not provide any more details about the clinical trials and cautioned that the initial immunity rate might change by the time the study ends.

In the trials, volunteers did not know who received the real vaccine or a dummy shot. But a week after their second required dose, Pfizer's study began counting the number who developed COVID-19 symptoms and were confirmed to have the coronavirus.

The companies have not revealed the exact number but a 90 per cent efficacy rate suggests that no more than eight people who got the vaccine caught the virus, compared to 86 of those who received a fake jab.

There are still questions - how long does immunity last, does the vaccine work as well in high-risk elderly people, does it stop you spreading the virus or just from developing symptoms? But that is the road ahead, the initial hump has been crossed.

Monday's announcement doesn't mean a vaccine is imminent: The next step is expected to be to apply for 'emergency use authorisation' in the US, for which the two companies will have to go to the Food & Drug Administration. If it is approved in the US, the UK could follow suit soon after.

UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson is holding out the prospect of millions of doses of the vaccine being in circulation in UK by Christmas if it wins approval. Donald Trump, who is yet to concede after losing to Joe Biden, tweeted in response to the news: 'Stock market up big, big vaccine coming soon. Report 90% effective. Such great news!'

Another US company, Moderna Inc, also has said it hopes to be able to file an application with the US Food and Drug Administration later this month.

Because the study hasn't ended, it couldn't say how many in each group had infections. Input: AP/BBC/Daily Mail

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