As the second wave of the coronavirus begins to wreak havoc in parts of the US, and Europe, the race to find a cure for the disease is also increasingly gaining momentum.
An experimental coronavirus vaccine being developed by drug giant Pfizer and German biotechnology firm BioNTech, prevented more than 90 per cent of infections in a study of tens of thousands of volunteers, according to an interim analysis by an independent data monitoring committee that met Sunday, Bloomberg reported.
Scientists across the world are racing to develop vaccines and effective treatments against the coronavirus, which has infected more than 50 million people, killing over 1.2 million in at least 200 countries where it has spread, according to worldometer.com.
There are no proven, knockout treatments for the coronavirus yet and U.S. health officials say a vaccine could take at least a year to 18 months.
But preliminary results from the coronavirus vaccine created by the two drug giants could be a key milestone, increasing confidence that a vaccine can train the immune system to recognise and fight the novel coronavirus without serious side effects, a major concern being raised by health experts.
The companies are now seeking an emergency-use authorisation from U.S. regulators if further research shows the shot is also safe, the report said.
“I would say it’s a historical moment. Something like this has never happened before. First of all, the world was faced with such a terrible situation, the pandemic, and being able in such a short time to go through what usually takes many years,” Kathrin Jansen, head of vaccine research and development at Pfizer, said in an interview with the Washington Post.
“Hearing that at the interim analysis we are over 90 per cent effective — it was almost stunning to hear.”
In Pfizer’s 44,000-person trial, according to the publication, there have so far been 94 cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, in people who were not previously infected.
Fewer than nine of those cases were among people who received two shots of the vaccine, a strong signal of efficacy, the report indicated, even though the data is not yet published or peer-reviewed.
“The results are really quite good, I mean extraordinary,” said Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the US.
Coronavirus vaccine race
The World Health Organisation is coordinating global efforts to develop a vaccine, with an eye toward delivering two billion doses by the end of 2021.Like all vaccines, the one against COVID-19 is essentially expected to instruct the immune system to mount a defence, which is sometimes stronger than what would be provided through natural infection and comes with fewer health consequences.
There are more than 150 vaccine candidates around the world right now and many of them will never make it out of the laboratory but the leading candidates are defying medical norms and promising a safe and efficient vaccine by the end of this year.
The ongoing trials of the Pfizer and German biotechnology firm BioNTech developed vaccine indicates the strongest signal yet that the unprecedented quest to develop a vaccine that could help bring the pandemic to an end might succeed.
“It could break every scientific speed record,” the Washington Post reported.