Your Weekly Covid-19 Vaccine Update: Pfizer Takes the Lead
Everything that happened in the race to find a coronavirus vaccine this week
After several weeks without a change, there are now 13 vaccines in phase 3 clinical trials — up two from last week — and six approved for limited use. Still none have been approved for general use, but that could change soon.
Pfizer takes the lead in the vaccine race
Hot off last week’s news that its vaccine is 90% effective, based on early results from a late-stage trial, Pfizer announced on Wednesday that it had finished its trial and its full results show 95% effectiveness. In the announcement, the company, which developed the vaccine in partnership with the German biotechnology firm BioNTech, said it would submit to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for an emergency use approval (EUA) “within days,” as well as to other regulatory agencies around the world.
Pfizer made good on its statement and announced that it would file for EUA on Friday. As the Washington Post reported, this begins a “weeks-long process in which career scientists at the Food and Drug Administration scrutinize the data and determine if the vaccine is safe and effective to be used in a broad population.” Once it gets the green light, only a small group of high-risk individuals will get access to the vaccine at first. By the end of this year, the U.S. is expected to get 25 million of the estimated 50 million doses that Pfizer aims to produce.
Moderna isn’t far behind
Not to be outdone by Pfizer’s announcement last week, Moderna published a statement on Monday saying that early results from its large late-stage trial showed 94.5% efficacy for its vaccine. Moderna’s data, like Pfizer’s, suggests its vaccine is effective for preventing severe disease. The company is expected to file for EUA within weeks.
Moderna’s vaccine also uses the same technology as Pfizer’s: Known as “genetic vaccines,” they use the virus’s own genetic material to coax human cells into making virus proteins that in turn elicit an immune response. As my colleague Emily Mullin wrote in Future Human, this type of vaccine has never made it to market before, and if it does, it could mark the dawn of a new era of vaccine-making.
Americans are becoming less vaccine hesitant
Gallup poll results released on Tuesday suggested that Americans are more willing to get a Covid-19 vaccine now than they were two months ago. The results showed that 58% of Americans — the majority of which were Democrats and older Americans — say they would get a Covid-19 vaccine, a notable uptick from the 50% of Americans who said the same in September. Put another way, that’s six out of every 10 Americans. The survey took place between October 19 and November 1, when daily new coronavirus cases reached frightening heights in the U.S. (but before the Pfizer and Moderna announcements).
A major reason four out of 10 Americans remain vaccine hesitant, according to Gallup, is what they perceive to be a “rushed” timeline of vaccine development; others want confirmation that the vaccine is safe. As my colleague Alexandra Sifferlin wrote previously on the Blog, it’s okay to feel hesitant about the vaccine. Getting informed about the vaccine may help ease your concerns; here’s a list of the most important questions to be asking.