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Covid vaccine: first vaccine to clear interim clinical trials by Pfizer and BioNTech

Written by Current Affairs, Science

A preliminary analysis shows the first ‘milestone’ Covid-19 vaccine by Pfizer and BioNTech to be 90% effective in protecting people from the virus. 

No safety concerns have been raised so far, as this becomes the fastest vaccine candidate to have been proven effective against the virus.

Pfizer has released interim data on its vaccine developed with the German partner company BioNTech SE. Data has indicated that the vaccine may be effective in preventing more than 90% of people from getting Covid-19. The vaccine has been tested on over 43,000 people in six different countries and the developers are planning to apply for emergency approval for use by the end of the month. No safety concerns have been raised so far, as this becomes the fastest vaccine candidate to have been proven effective against the virus.

How does it work?

This vaccine, similar to other competing candidates for the virus, is an mRNA vaccine. Traditionally, vaccines contain weakened or purified fragments of the disease-inducing virus in order to train the immune system to recognise and combat it. However, in this case instead of the viral protein being injected, the vaccine contains the genetic material (mRNA) that encodes the viral protein. This is then injected in the upper arm of the receiver, which causes the body to directly translate the genetic information and make the viral protein within its muscle cells. The vaccine only contains a critical fragment of the mRNA codes, enough to train the immune system without causing the disease. 

There is still very limited information regarding the lifespan of the immunity and effectiveness in different ages and races.

How effective will it be? 

It is fair to say that a vaccine is potentially the most effective way of getting the virus under control and returning to any sense of ‘normal life’. The data indicates that two doses of the vaccine will be needed at three weeks apart in order to be about 90% effective. It is important to note that this is just the preliminary analysis based on the first 94 volunteers to develop Covid. There is still very limited information regarding the lifespan of the immunity and effectiveness in different ages and races. Furthermore, this vaccine needs to be maintained at -70°C, creating issues regarding storage capabilities. 

How accessible will it be?

Pfizer and BioNTech are quickly pushing for emergency authorization in hopes of getting the first batches of the vaccine dispersed by the end of 2020. The vaccine will initially be made available for more vulnerable people within the high-risk categories. The developers say they will be able to supply 50 million doses by the end of this year and 1.3 billion doses by the end of next year. The UK is on track to receive 10 million doses by the end of this year, with another 30 million also already ordered. Although Pfizer and BioNTech are the first to make such a big announcement, American biotechnology company Moderna has also announced a vaccine that is 94.5% effective and that can be stored at standard vaccine refrigeration temperatures. 

Featured Image: Wikimedia Commons

Last modified: 21st November 2020

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