|Pfizer said an early peek at its vaccine data suggests the shots may be 90 per cent effective at preventing COVID-19, indicating the company is on track later this month to file an emergency use application with U.S. regulators. The vaccine is among seven that Canada has pre-ordered, but Monday’s announcement doesn’t mean a vaccine is imminent. Authorities have stressed it’s unlikely any vaccine will arrive much before the end of the year, and limited initial supplies will be rationed.
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. Pfizer Inc. did not provide any more details about those cases, and cautioned the initial protection rate might change by the time the study ends. Even revealing such early data is highly unusual. “We’re in a position potentially to be able to offer some hope,” Dr. Bill Gruber, Pfizer’s senior vice-president of clinical development, told The Associated Press. “We’re very encouraged.”
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 has said it hopes to be able to file an application with the Food and Drug Administration later this month. Distributing the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine could be logistically challenging. BioNTech said the genetic component of the messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine would have to be shipped and centrally stored at minus 70 degrees C.
The results have not been peer-reviewed by outside experts or published in a medical journal. The vaccine developers have not publicly shared details about how the vaccine performed according to independent monitors overseeing the study. Pfizer said its data would be peer reviewed once it has results from the entire trial. No participant in the trial has become severely ill so far, Gruber said. He could not provide a breakdown of how many of the infections had occurred in older people, who are at highest risk from COVID-19.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said the trial is an “encouraging” development — and could be the first step toward restoring Canada’s social and economic life. If all goes well, he said, the Pfizer vaccine should be available to Canadians sometime over the first three months of 2021. “We see the light at the end of the tunnel,” Trudeau said. Canada has reserved 20 million doses of the vaccine, with the option to purchase more. Given that the vaccine is administered as two doses, 28 days apart, Canada would initially have enough to vaccinate 10 million people if it is approved.