Promising results of a Covid-19 vaccine are being shown in a new pivotal study from Pfizer and partner BioNTech SE.
The results from the study showed that the vaccine fared better than expected at protecting people from Covid-19. The companies said the vaccine was more than 90 percent effective in the first 94 subjects infected by the new coronavirus and developed at least one symptom.
This is a promising development in the hunt for a Covid-19 vaccine as the virus has already killed more than 1.2 million people globally.
The vaccine is being developed by both Pfizer and German drugmaker BioNTech.
According to The New York Times, the drug is 90 percent effective in preventing the disease among trial volunteers who had no evidence of prior coronavirus infection. The Times said that protection level would put it on par with highly effective childhood vaccines for diseases such as measles. Additionally, no serious safety concerns have been observed at this time.
The drug trial currently has nearly 44,000 subjects in the U.S. and other countries enrolled in it.
“This is a historical moment. This was a devastating situation, a pandemic, and we have embarked on a path and a goal that nobody ever has achieved — to come up with a vaccine within a year,” said Kathrin Jansen, a senior vice president and the head of vaccine research and development at Pfizer.
While the announcement of Pfizer’s successful vaccine trial is fantastic news and a relief, Dr. Jansen chose the moment to distance Pfizer’s work from Operation Warp Speed.
President Donald Trump’s Operation Warp Speed has helped along many of the potential coronavirus vaccines. The operation seeks to produce and deliver 300 million doses of safe and effective vaccines for Covid-19, with the initial doses available by January 2021. The federal government has made hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of funds available to companies like Johnson & Johnson and Moderna.
In her interview with the New York Times, Dr. Jansen said that Pfizer was never a part of the operation.
“We were never part of the Warp Speed,” she said. “We have never taken any money from the U.S. government, or from anyone.”
While it is technically true Pfizer did not receive grant funding for its work, the U.S. Government promised $1.95 billion to Pfizer to the company to deliver 100 million doses as a part of Operation Warp Speed.
The claim that the company was “never a part of Operation Warp Speed” is made more confusing by Pfizer’s press release from late July.
The release shared details of Pfizer’s $1.95 billion deal with the government and described it as “an agreement with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense to meet the U.S. government’s Operation Warp Speed program goal to begin delivering 300 million doses of a vaccine for COVID-19 in 2021.”
“Expanding Operation Warp Speed’s diverse portfolio by adding a vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech increases the odds that we will have a safe, effective vaccine as soon as the end of this year,” said Health & Human Services Secretary Alex Azar in the statement.
Following Dr. Jansen’s interview with the Times, Pfizer spoke to Newsweek, clarifying its involvement with the operation. A spokesperson told Newsweek that while Pfizer did not take government funding for research and development, the company’s vaccine was tied to Operation Warp Speed.
“Pfizer has not taken federal money for R&D,” Sharon Castillo, a spokesperson for the company based in Washington, D.C., told Newsweek.
Perhaps Dr. Jansen was misinformed, or an interview question was taken out of context. But if not, consumers should take not, regardless of intent. Always be wary of companies who misrepresent ties to the federal government. With billions passed around and the future of the world’s pandemic response on the line, we can’t afford to get political.
Pfizer has claimed that it is on track to ask health regulators for permission to sell the vaccine before the end of this month if the research from the two-month safety data collection indicates the vaccine is safe.
The company will need to ask the Food and Drug Administration for emergency authorization of the two-dose vaccine. By the end of the year, Pfizer has claimed it will have manufactured enough doses to immunize 15 to 20 million people.
Vaccine hopefuls should caution their excitement as the vaccine’s safety data is still being collected, and it is unclear how long the vaccine’s protection might last. The release of the 90 percent effectiveness news came in the form of a news release by the company and not in a peer-reviewed medical journal.
There are currently eleven vaccines in late-stage trials worldwide, four of which are in the U.S.