The drug company Pfizer said Monday that early analysis showed its vaccine candidate for Covid-19 is more than 90 percent effective at preventing infection.
The news from U.S. pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech SE, has been welcomed as a major step in the fight against a virus that has plagued the global economy, upended daily life for billions and killed 1.26 million people — nearly 240,000 in the U.S. alone.
The study shows that people who received two doses as part of the trial saw 90 percent fewer symptomatic cases of Covid-19 than participants who were given a placebo. This is a far higher success rate than many experts had expected.
“Today is a great day for science and humanity,” Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s chairman and chief executive, said in a statement. “We are reaching this critical milestone in our vaccine development program at a time when the world needs it most with infection rates setting new records, hospitals nearing over-capacity and economies struggling to reopen.”
The breakthrough does not mean a vaccine will be immediately available.
Though there have been no serious safety concerns yet, Pfizer said, the company added that it would not apply to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for emergency use authorization until it had two months worth of safety data, which will likely not come until the third week of November.
It is also unclear how long any protection would last, although BioNTech’s chief executive, Ugur Sahin, told Reuters, “We should be more optimistic that the immunization effect can last for at least a year.” He said it was basing this on earlier findings and research on recovered patients.
Even if approved, rolling out the vaccine worldwide will be an unparalleled logistical challenge. Like many others, this vaccine must be kept at super-cold temperatures, meaning distribution to remote parts of the world will be difficult.
Pfizer said that based on current projections it expects to produce globally up to 50 million vaccine doses in 2020 and up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021.
Regardless of the unknowns, international markets welcomed the news, with stock futures on Wall Street surging after the announcement.
This is a developing story, check back for updates.
Laura Saravia contributed.