During these troubled times, as our nation faces countless COVID-19 cases, political division, and an economy in shambles, the news of an effective vaccine brings hope and comfort to many. Just recently, data from pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has exceeded expectations, revealing their vaccine to be 90% effective. According to Pfizer, due to this incredible success, it is now in the realm of possibility for the vaccine to be approved in mid-December once they apply to the FDA, and for shots to start being administered before the year has ended. However, even though scientists have deemed the results encouraging, they have made it clear that obtaining more data is necessary, and even if approved soon, returning to normalcy will still take time.
During Pfizer’s clinical trials, 94 COVID-19 patients were analyzed and split into a placebo group and an experimental group. Effectiveness of the vaccine would be determined based upon how many more cases were present in the placebo group compared to the experimental. Originally aiming for a 77% effectiveness with 26 cases in the placebo group and 6 in the experimental, their results ended up surpassing what they had initially hoped for. Pfizer has now entered final testing, and is still collecting data to ensure that the vaccine is both safe and effective. Original trial participants are still being observed, and any side effects will be reported. Pfizer stated that they would be able to make 50 million doses before the end of the year, which would be enough for 25 million people, and then 1.3 billion around the end of 2021. As of now, the U.S. government has placed an order for 100 million doses of the vaccine and will purchase more if the vaccine still shows promise during the trials to come.
However, scientists have stated that the information Pfizer has released is limited, and many questions have been raised as a result. For one, it is unclear how long protection will last after the vaccine has been administered, as reports reveal it was only tested on day seven following inoculation. Others are concerned about how the vaccine is going to work for those with weaker immune systems, such as the elderly. One study seemed to show that while older adults did respond to the vaccine, their response wasn’t as robust as the younger participants. Pfizer plans to apply to the FDA for an emergency authorization in a few weeks, though the additional data they obtain could potentially change its reported effectiveness.
Pfizer’s success with the vaccine can be considered a breakthrough in our ongoing war with this pandemic. The results are already very promising, and once additional trials are carried out to answer the questions that have been posed by scientists, it will be one step closer to being made available to the public. Once approved, however, returning to normalcy won’t be immediate. Everyone would still need to adhere to the basic safety guidelines and continue to wear masks and social distance. It will take time for there to be enough vaccine doses to administer so that herd immunity can be built up.