It’s before noon on Monday and we have probably already hit a high point for the week. I’m speaking of the announcement by Pfizer that the company’s Coronavirus vaccine has been found to be 90 percent effective in an interim analysis. The stock market cheered the news with a rally of more than 1,000 points.
The world still has a long way to go to end the pandemic but the news of Pfizer’s accomplishment is encouraging. The interim analysis of 94 Coronavirus cases in the study found that fewer than 10 percent of patients who had been given the vaccine were infected by COVID-19 while more than 90 percent of the cases were in people who received a placebo.
This does not mean that the pandemic is over but it does represent a huge step forward. The study, which includes more than 43,000 people, has so far not revealed any serious safety concerns, but the trial is not yet over and the vaccine has not been approved. The company expects to submit the vaccine for emergency FDA approval after a required safety milestone is reached in the third week of November.
Pfizer hopes to manufacture and distribute 50 million vaccine doses in 2020 and up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021. The company is not part of the Trump Administration’s Operation Warp Speed, but did partner with the federal government in July for the distribution of 100 million doses of a future vaccine.
The Pfizer vaccine is taken in two doses and uses a completely new technology called messenger RNA, or mRNA, to produce an immune response in people who are vaccinated. It is likely that the vaccine will require boosters every few years once it is administered.
The downside is that we are months away from approval and widespread distribution of the vaccine. We don’t need to let down our guard because COVID-19 kills in about three weeks and there is still no cure. Today’s announcement is not the end of the pandemic, but it is the beginning of the end.
Regardless of which side of the political debate you are one, we should celebrate being one step closer to an end to the pandemic with herd immunity reached through a vaccine rather than through a cataclysmic death rate. The end of the emergency and a return to normalcy is in sight.
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