Drugmaker Pfizer said an early analysis has revealed that its COVID-19 vaccine was at least 90% effective in its clinical trial, multiple news outlets are reporting. According to The New York Times, the company, which partnered with BioNTech to create the vaccine, announced the news on Monday morning.
The “vaccine candidate was found to be more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 in participants without evidence of prior SARS-CoV-2 infection in the first interim efficacy analysis,” Pfizer said in a news release, adding that an independent Data Monitoring Committee evaluated 94 confirmed coronavirus cases among 43,500 people enrolled in the study. Pfizer has said it would continue the study until researchers record 164 coronavirus cases among participants.
The announcement, less than a week after an election seen as a referendum on President Donald Trump’s handling of the crisis, was a rare and major piece of encouraging news lately in the battle against the scourge that has killed more than 1.2 million people worldwide, including almost a quarter-million in the United States alone.Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S. government’s top-infectious disease expert, said the results suggesting 90% effectiveness are “just extraordinary,” adding: “Not very many people expected it would be as high as that.” “It’s going to have a major impact on everything we do with respect to COVID,” Fauci said as Pfizer appeared to take the lead in the all-out global race by pharmaceutical companies and various countries to develop a well-tested vaccine against the virus.
Dr. Bruce Aylward, the World Health Organization’s senior adviser, said that Pfizer’s vaccine could “fundamentally change the direction of this crisis” by March, when the U.N. agency hopes to start vaccinating high-risk groups.
Still, Monday’s announcement doesn’t mean for certain that a vaccine is imminent: This interim analysis, from an independent data monitoring board, looked at 94 infections recorded so far in a study that has enrolled nearly 44,000 people in the U.S. and five other countries. Some participants got the vaccine, while others got dummy shots. Pfizer Inc. cautioned that the protection rate might change by the time the study ends. Even revealing such early data is highly unusual.
Global markets, already buoyed by the victory of President-elect Joe Biden, exploded on the news from Pfizer. The S%P 500 surged 3.7% after the opening bell, and the Dow Jones Industrial Average was up more than 1,300 points. Pfizer jumped more than 9%. Other vaccine stocks were up as well.Biden welcomed the news but cautioned that it could be many months before vaccinations become widespread in the U.S., and he warned Americans to rely on masks and social distancing in the meantime.
The shots, made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, are among 10 possible vaccine candidates in late-stage testing around the world — four of them so far in huge studies in the U.S. Another U.S. company, Moderna Inc., also hopes to file an application with the FDA this month.
Volunteers in the final-stage studies, and the researchers, don’t know who received the real vaccine or a dummy shot. But a week after their second dose, Pfizer’s study began counting the number who developed COVID-19 symptoms and were confirmed to have the coronavirus. Pfizer doesn’t plan to stop its study until it records 164 infections among all the volunteers, a number that the FDA has agreed is enough to tell how well the vaccine is working. The agency has made clear that any vaccine must be at least 50% effective.