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Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine breakthrough: Medicine, stock market experts weigh in

Pfizer and German partner BioNTech SE are the first drug makers to show successful data from a large-scale clinical trial of a coronavirus vaccine. Here are some experts' views
Nov 9, 2020 / 06:54 PM IST

Pfizer on November 9 said an early peek at its vaccine data suggests that it may be 90 percent effective at preventing COVID-19, indicating the company is on track later this month to file an emergency use application with US regulators.

Pfizer and German partner BioNTech SE are the first drug makers to show successful data from a large-scale clinical trial of a coronavirus vaccine. Below are experts' views on the development.

Also Read: COVID-19 update | Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine candidate more than 90% effective — read Pfizer boss Albert Bourla's full statement here


FLORIAN KRAMMER, PROFESSOR AT THE DEPARTMENT OF MICROBIOLOGY, ICAHN SCHOOL OF MEDICINE AT MOUNT SINAI, USA


"These are fantastic results. The efficacy could be higher than expected, and this probably means that - at least in the US - there will be an application for approval very soon. Of course, it would be better to see age-specific data, but I suspect that these will be published soon. Frankly, this is the best news I have received since January 10."

MICHAEL HEAD, SENIOR RESEARCH FELLOW IN GLOBAL HEALTH, UNIVERSITY OF SOUTHAMPTON

COVID-19 Vaccine

Frequently Asked Questions

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How does a vaccine work?

A vaccine works by mimicking a natural infection. A vaccine not only induces immune response to protect people from any future COVID-19 infection, but also helps quickly build herd immunity to put an end to the pandemic. Herd immunity occurs when a sufficient percentage of a population becomes immune to a disease, making the spread of disease from person to person unlikely. The good news is that SARS-CoV-2 virus has been fairly stable, which increases the viability of a vaccine.

How many types of vaccines are there?

There are broadly four types of vaccine — one, a vaccine based on the whole virus (this could be either inactivated, or an attenuated [weakened] virus vaccine); two, a non-replicating viral vector vaccine that uses a benign virus as vector that carries the antigen of SARS-CoV; three, nucleic-acid vaccines that have genetic material like DNA and RNA of antigens like spike protein given to a person, helping human cells decode genetic material and produce the vaccine; and four, protein subunit vaccine wherein the recombinant proteins of SARS-COV-2 along with an adjuvant (booster) is given as a vaccine.

What does it take to develop a vaccine of this kind?

Vaccine development is a long, complex process. Unlike drugs that are given to people with a diseased, vaccines are given to healthy people and also vulnerable sections such as children, pregnant women and the elderly. So rigorous tests are compulsory. History says that the fastest time it took to develop a vaccine is five years, but it usually takes double or sometimes triple that time.

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"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 percent 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."

KENNETH BROUX, FX STRATEGIST AT SOCIETE GENERALE

"The COVID-19 vaccine news adds to the positive risk tone in stocks and underpins high beta currencies vs the US dollar. Any positive news on a vaccine is good news for the world economy and offers perspective for rebound/normalisation in 2021 growth."

AZRA GHANI, CHAIR IN INFECTIOUS DISEASE EPIDEMIOLOGY, IMPERIAL COLLEGE LONDON

"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 seven 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."

JOHN MOORE, PROFESSOR AT WEILL CORNELL MEDICAL COLLEGE, NEW YORK CITY

"I can see nothing problematic."

As for what this means for other vaccines, Moore said: "Moderna's is likely to work as well given the similar design and performance, and Novavax also, as it seems more potent. It's harder to judge about the other candidates."

WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, INFECTIOUS DISEASES EXPERT AT VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER, NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE, US.

"The efficacy data are really impressive. This is better than most of us anticipated. I would have been delighted with efficacy of 70 percent or 75 percent. 90 percent is very impressive for any vaccine. The study isn't completed yet, but nonetheless the data look very solid."

IAN JONES, PROFESSOR OF VIROLOGY AT UNIVERSITY OF READING, UK

"Of all the vaccines 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 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."

MARYLYN ADDO, HEAD OF TROPICAL MEDICINE SECTION, UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER EPPENDORF (UKE), HAMBURG, GERMANY

"These are interesting first signals, but again they are only communicated in press releases. Primary data are not yet available and a peer-reviewed publication is still pending. We still have to wait for the exact data before we can make a final assessment. At present, there are still few details about the exact data, for example regarding different age groups and in which groups the 94 cases occurred exactly."

BERND SALZBERGER, HEAD OF INFECTIOLOGY, UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL REGENSBURG, GERMANY

"In the Pfizer/Biontech press release, the Phase II/III placebo-controlled observer-blinded study with the vaccine BNT162b2 reported a vaccine efficacy of over 90 percent. Although only a few events - a total of 94 cases - have been observed in the study so far, this is a very good result. No serious side effects have been reported - overall a very positive result, which will probably lead to an early approval."

GERD FAETKENHEUER, HEAD OF INFECTIOLOGY, CLINIC I FOR INTERNAL MEDICINE, UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL COLOGNE, GERMANY

"These are great and promising data. It is incredible that in such a short period of time this progress with the development of a vaccine and clinical trials within a few months has been achieved. The results on efficacy and safety so far are excellent.

"I think this will have a major impact on our handling of the pandemic and I hope that large quantities of the vaccine will be available quickly. The researchers involved can only be congratulated".

DANNY ALTMANN, PROFESSOR OF IMMUNOLOGY AT IMPERIAL COLLEGE LONDON

In terms of the impact on the COVID-19 pandemic, "it's good news, but it's not 'overnight success' good news".

Altmann cautioned that this and other potentially successful vaccines would still need to be approved and delivered to people across the world, and this will still take many months.

He added, however: "I always felt optimistic, and my optimism remains strong."

CARSTEN BRZESKI, GLOBAL HEAD OF MACRO, ING

"The bigger driver of the economic outlook is from the outside factors. Right now that means the development of a vaccine, which is why we are following news on this front closely."

"The base case we have already is that we are likely to get a vaccine by year-end and that it will be rolled out. So we do see news like this as positive. The worrying sign would be if we get negative news say on testing, that would hurt how we view the economic outlook."

(With inputs from Reuters)
Moneycontrol News
first published: Nov 9, 2020 06:54 pm
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