Infectious Diseases

Longevity Briefs: A Vaccine For COVID-19 Is Almost Here, And It Is More Than 90% Effective – Here Is What You Need To Know

Posted on 12 November 2020

Longevity briefs provides a short summary of novel research in biology, medicine, or biotechnology that caught the attention of our researchers in Oxford, due to its potential to improve our health, wellbeing, and longevity.

Coronavirus around the world

Why is this research important: At present, coronavirus has afflicted over 50 million people in 190 countries, killing over 1.2 million. This pandemic causing virus has had far reaching consequences by impacting our global economy, bringing our day-to-day lives to halt, and harming the health and wellbeing of countless individuals worldwide. The only way to put an end to the coronavirus pandemic and return to normalcy is by having an effective vaccine for SAR-CoV-2.

Subset of vaccines being developed for COVID-19. Source: The Guardian COVID vaccine tracker.

More than 234 vaccines are being developed globally for COVID-19. 57 of these vaccines are being tested in clinical trials on humans, and at least 155 are being tested in preclinical experiments. Vaccines from 11 companies, including the one made by Pfizer and BioNTech, are in the final phase (Phase 3) of their human clinical trials.

What did the researchers do: Pfizer and BioNTech announced in mid-March this year that they will be jointly developing a vaccine for COVID-19, and that this vaccine will use the novel mRNA (messenger RNA) technology. The therapeutic use of mRNA technology originated as a cancer treatment, specifically injecting genetic instructions into the body that told cells to make viral proteins that prime the immune system.

How does the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 mRNA based vaccine work -FT
How does the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 mRNA based vaccine work – Source: Pfizer

After early human trials (Phase 1) the company announced in September that they will be undertaking the final trial in 44,000 participants from United States, Argentina, Brazil, and Germany. This Phase 3 (final stage) trial in humans is a 1:1 randomized placebo controlled trial, which means that 22,000 people would be given a placebo, while the other 22,000 participants get the mRNA vaccine. Finally, the FDA agreed that they would stop the trial to review the data once 164-cases of COVID-19 occurred among the 44,000 participants. The FDA also agreed to take a preliminary look at the data after 64, 92, and 120 cases of COVID-19 were reported.

Therefore, after having 94 cases of COVID-19 among the participants Pfizer and BioNTech examined the data and reported that their mRNA vaccine was more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19.

Key takeaway(s) from this research:

  • On the 9th of November Pfizer and BioNTech announced that their SAR-CoV-2 mRNA vaccine prevented COVID-19 in 90% of trial participants..
  • This vaccine requires two doses, with the second dose administered three weeks after the first.
  • In this placebo-controlled vaccine trial, 43,538 participants were enrolled, of which half received a placebo treatment, whilst the other half received the COVID vaccine, and a total of 94 developed COVID-19.
  • Using the vaccine efficacy/effectiveness calculation, we can deduce that 86 of these COVID-19 cases occurred in the placebo group, while 8 occurred in the vaccine group.
  • These are very encouraging results — although preliminary, they imply that a vaccine against Coronavirus will be effective and remain relatively safe. Below is a chart that shows how effective the Pfizer BioNTech COVID vaccine could be in comparison to other vaccines that are currently in regular use.
  • Additional good news is that Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine targets the telltale spike protein on the outer surface of the novel coronavirus, as do many other manufacturers of COVID vaccines, so over the next few months we should be hearing many success stories.
Comparing Pfizer and BioNTech's COVID-19 vaccine with effectiveness of other well known vaccines
Comparing Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine with effectiveness of other well known vaccines. Source: Financial Times

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