New COVID-19 Vaccine Is 90 Percent Effective, Manufacturers Say

The effectiveness of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, based on preliminary analysis, far exceeds expectations of experts.
November 9, 2020, 12:22pm
A person wearing a protective mask sits after participating in clinical trials for a COVID-19 vaccine in Florida in September.
A person wearing a protective mask sits after participating in clinical trials for a COVID-19 vaccine in Florida in September. Photo: Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A COVID-19 vaccine being developed by Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech has proven more than 90 percent effective in initial trials.

The companies said there were only 94 confirmed cases of the coronavirus among more than 43,500 trial participants. The success rate is far higher than expected by experts, with regulators previously saying 50 percent efficacy would justify approval of the vaccine.

Pfizer said it expects to produce up to 50 million vaccine doses globally in 2020, and up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021. In the UK, which has ordered 40 million doses of the vaccine including 10 million requested before the end of the year, those most at risk will be first in line to receive the immunisation. Care home residents and staff, and those over 75, will be vaccinated first if the manufacturers prove successful.

Pfizer and BioNTech are now applying for emergency approval in the US by the end of the month.

“Today is a great day for science and humanity. 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,” said Dr. Albert Bourla, Pfizer Chairman and CEO.

Around a dozen vaccines are in the final stages of testing, but the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is the first to show results.

“We are reaching this critical milestone in our vaccine development program at a time when the world needs it most with infection rates setting new records, hospitals nearing over-capacity and economies struggling to reopen,” Dr. Bourla added.

The pharmaceutical companies developed the vaccine independent of US government funding, announcing the results of the preliminary trials soon after Joe Biden was declared the winner of the US presidential election.

Operation Warp Speed, a US government funding programme, aimed to deliver 300 million doses of an effective vaccine by January 2021.