During these months of restrictions, fears, difficulties, closures and sacrifices, the whole world has hoped to go back to a normal life as soon as possible. And today, a brighter future does not seem to be so far away. The entire world breathed a sigh of relief thanks to the announcement by the US company Pfizer and the German’s BioNTech on the high efficacy of their vaccine still being tested.
The vaccine, BNT162b2, showed an efficacy of over 90% on 43,538 participants of different backgrounds and could therefore prevent COVID-19. It consists of a 2-dose schedule and has to be kept at ultra-low temperatures (about -70 degrees). The two companies expect to produce a total of 1.3 billion doses in 2021.
Albert Bourla, Pfizer CEO, said that this vaccine could help end the pandemic, it is the first step towards a safe and effective solution. However, he stresses that “The DMC has not reported any serious safety concerns and recommends that the study continue to collect additional safety and efficacy data as planned”. BioNTech CEO Ugur Sahin said their main goal is to ensure a vaccine for the whole world, as soon as possible.
Obviously, this good news has caused some uncertainties. Many people are wondering what the effectiveness could be on the elderly, that portion of the population that is suffering most from this pandemic. Another doubt concerns the long-term efficacy which is still unknown and, moreover, the question is whether the vaccine will prevent infectivity, that is, if vaccinated citizens will not be contagious in addition to having no symptoms.
Yesterday, encouraging news arrived for the whole Europe, the European Commission signed an agreement with the two companies to receive 200 million doses of the vaccine with the option to request an additional 100 million doses. Vaccines for the EU Member States will be produced at BioNtech’s manufacturing sites in Germany and at Pfizer’s manufacturing sites in Belgium. This is the fourth contract signed by the EU, in addition to those signed with AstraZeneca, Sanofi-GSK and Janssen Pharmaceutica NV.
“With this fourth contract we are now consolidating an extremely solid vaccine candidate portfolio, most of them in advanced trials phase. Once authorised, they will be quickly deployed and bring us closer to a sustainable solution of the pandemic”, said yesterday the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen. Stella Kyriakides, Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said that the agreement “is a very telling example of what the EU can achieve when working together, as a Union, and a case in point of what a future European Health Union will be able to deliver”; but there is still a lot of work to do, governments must work hard both to be prepared once the doses will be ready and to solve the aspects the most complicated, such as logistics, storage and administration of vaccines to the population.
Is this a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel or is the definitive solution still faraway?