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Pfizer, BioNTech: Covid-19 vaccine is 90% effective in Phase 3 trial

No serious safety concerns found in trial but questions remain over how long it can protect against the virus

PARIS: A vaccine jointly developed by Pfizer and BioNTech was 90 per cent effective in preventing Covid-19 infections in ongoing phase three trials, they announced yesterday.

Pfizer and German partner BioNTech are the first drugmakers to show successful data from a large-scale clinical trial of a coronavirus vaccine.

The companies said they have so far found no serious safety concerns and expect to seek US emergency use authorisation later this month. If authorised, the number of vaccine doses will initially be limited.

Many questions also remain, including how long the vaccine will provide protection. However, the news gives hope that other vaccines in development may also prove effective.

US President Donald Trump, who lost last week's election in part over his administration's response to the pandemic, hailed the announcement as "such great news", while Mr Joe Biden cautioned that it will be many months before we see widespread vaccine use.

According to preliminary findings, protection in patients was achieved seven days after the second of two doses, and 28 days after the first.

The companies said they expect to supply up to 50 million vaccine doses globally in 2020, and up to 1.3 billion in 2021.

"The first set of results from our Phase 3 Covid-19 vaccine trial provides the initial evidence of our vaccine's ability to prevent Covid-19," Pfizer chairman and chief executive Albert Bourla said in a statement.

"We are a significant step closer to providing people around the world with a much-needed breakthrough to help bring an end to this global health crisis," he said.

"We are reaching this critical milestone in our vaccine development programme at a time when the world needs it most."

The Phase 3 clinical trial - the final stage - of the new vaccine, BNT162b2, began in late July and has enrolled 43,538 participants, 90 per cent of whom have received a second dose of the vaccine candidate as of Nov 8.

Professor of Emerging Infectious Diseases and Global Health Peter Horby, from the Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford, said Pfizer's announcement "feels to me like a watershed moment" in the pandemic.

But others pointed out that there would likely be significant logistical problems in getting the vaccine to everyone, especially given it must be kept super-cooled and currently requires two doses to bestow immunity. - AFP, REUTERS

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