Pfizer vaccine is 95 per cent effective overall and protects 94 per cent of people over 65
Further data about the coronavirus vaccine being developed by US pharmaceutical company Pfizer and German biotechnology company BioNTech shows that it is 95 per cent effective for all age groups, and protects 94 per cent of adults over 65. The new data, from the first set of complete results from the phase III trial, also showed that the vaccine produced no serious side effects. Pfizer and BioNTech said they will submit a request for emergency use authorisation to the US Food and Drug Administration within days, which will allow the vaccine to be used with people outside the trial. About 40,000 people participated in the trial, with half receiving two doses of the vaccine and the other half a placebo.
Out of 170 covid-19 cases among trial participants, only eight were in the vaccinated group, the companies said in a statement. They said the vaccine worked similarly well “across age, gender, race and ethnicity demographics”. The results are encouraging because older individuals are at an increased risk of becoming severely ill and dying from covid-19, in part because the immune system weakens with age.
The vaccine is based on similar mRNA technology to that used in the vaccine candidate being developed by US biotechnology company Moderna, which was found to be almost 95 per cent effective based on a preliminary analysis. We still don’t know if either vaccine can stop infected people from passing on the virus or how long any immunity might last. The Pfizer-BioNTech trial will continue to collect data on the safety and effectiveness of the coronavirus vaccine for a further two years.
Other coronavirus news
A preliminary study suggests the majority of people who have recovered from covid-19 may still have coronavirus-specific immune cells in their bodies more than six months after infection. The study, which has not been published or peer-reviewed, included 41 people who had tested positive for the coronavirus at least six months prior. It found that levels of coronavirus-specific T-cells had only decayed slightly at six months, while other antibody-producing immune cells called B-cells actually increased between one and six months after infection.
Doctors in Switzerland said intensive care beds are at full capacity in the country. All of the 876 certified intensive care unit beds in Switzerland are occupied, the Swiss Society for Intensive Medicine said in a statement yesterday. It also advised vulnerable people to write down in a will whether they would like to receive life support in the event that they become severely ill. Switzerland recorded a daily average of 5262 coronavirus cases in the week leading up to 17 November.
The worldwide covid-19 death toll has passed 1.34 million. The number of confirmed cases is more than 55.8 million, according to Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.
Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist
Will vaccines stop the pandemic?: Headlines about safe and effective covid-19 vaccines seem simple, but the truth is that the trials tell us far less than we assume about who will benefit from a vaccine.
mRNA vaccines: Coronavirus vaccines being developed by Pfizer and Moderna could be the first mRNA vaccines to get approval. Here’s how these vaccines work and how might they change the world.
Vaccine hesitancy: Heidi Larson is the founder of the Vaccine Confidence Project at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine and author of Stuck, a book about how vaccine rumours start. New Scientist spoke to her about people’s hesitancy around the first covid-19 vaccines.
Nearly 2000 people died from covid-19 in England and Wales within a week
There were 1937 deaths from coronavirus in England and Wales in the week ending 6 November, according to the latest numbers from the Office for National Statistics. The number of people who died was 558 more than the previous week, which saw 1379 deaths. It is the second consecutive week with more than 1000 deaths involving the coronavirus across the two nations.
These latest numbers do not reflect the potential impact of new lockdown measures in England and Wales. England entered a four week nationwide lockdown on 5 November, with Wales coming out of a 17-day “firebreak” national lockdown on 9 November. Parts of Scotland will also enter a “near-lockdown” from Friday. It may take several weeks for the effects of these measures to appear in official death registration data, said Kevin McConway at the Open University in a statement. “If a person unfortunately dies from covid-19, that would typically be two or three weeks after they first had symptoms of the infection,” said McConway. “So maybe the current measures to reduce new infections are having an effect but it’s too early to see that in death registrations. But we absolutely can’t be sure of that yet.”
The UK government is reviewing the three-tier system of coronavirus restrictions in England to decide which measures should be implemented when the nation’s lockdown is due to end next month, according to housing minister Robert Jenrick. “Our hope and expectation is that [the national measures] will come to an end and we’ll move back into the tiered structure, and that will see a significant easing in all parts of England – more in some parts than others, depending on the rate of infection,” Jenrick told LBC today. “We’re doing the heavy lifting in November so that we can have a somewhat easier and more normal December.”
Other coronavirus news
Pfizer is piloting a delivery program for its coronavirus vaccine candidate in four US states – Rhode Island, Texas, New Mexico and Tennessee. There have been some concerns about how the vaccine would be stored and distributed, given its ultra-low temperature formulation. “We are hopeful that results from this vaccine delivery pilot will serve as the model for other US states and international governments, as they prepare to implement effective covid-19 vaccine programs,” Pfizer said in a statement yesterday.
UK prime minister Boris Johnson has tested negative for the coronavirus, his spokesperson told journalists today. “He took a test yesterday and that test was negative but he will in accordance with the rules on self-isolation continue to self-isolate,” the spokesperson said.
The worldwide covid-19 death toll has passed 1.33 million. The number of confirmed cases is more than 55.2 million, according to Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.
Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist
Coronavirus vaccines: How do mRNA coronavirus vaccines work? Science with Sam explains.Moderna vaccine: Early results suggest the Moderna vaccine is even more effective than the Pfizer vaccine, including in older people, boosting hopes that we might end up with several vaccines against covid-19.
Coronavirus vaccine candidate being developed by Pfizer is ‘more than 90% effective’
A coronavirus vaccine candidate being developed by Pfizer is “more than 90% effective in preventing covid-19”, according to early results, the company announced today. The results have been described as “reason for optimism for 2021” by Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer. Joe Biden, US president-elect, said this was “excellent news”, but warned that “the end of the battle against covid-19 is still months away” as it will take “many more months before there is widespread vaccination.”
Pfizer said that an early analysis of the results from the phase III trial found more than 90 per cent fewer symptomatic coronavirus cases among trial participants who received two doses of the vaccine candidate three weeks apart compared to those who received a placebo. So far in the trial, 38,955 people have received two doses of either vaccine or placebo as of 8 November, and there have been 94 confirmed coronavirus cases in total among them. The results have not been peer-reviewed or published in a scientific journal, and Pfizer said further analysis will occur once there have been 164 confirmed coronavirus cases among the participants. Pfizer is developing the vaccine in partnership with German biotechnology company BioNTech.
It still isn’t known whether the vaccine candidate can prevent people from getting infected with the coronavirus regardless of whether they develop symptoms, or whether it can prevent people from becoming severely ill with covid-19. “I think we have reason to be cautiously optimistic,” said Eleanor Riley at the University of Edinburgh in a statement. Pfizer said it plans to submit an application for emergency use authorisation to the US Food and Drug Administration after collecting and analysing additional data on efficacy and safety, which it expects will occur in the third week of November. If authorised, the company said up to 50 million doses of the vaccine could be available globally by the end of the year and 1.3 billion doses could be available in 2021. The UK has already ordered 40 million doses of the vaccine candidate and expects to have 10 million doses available by the end of the year if regulators approve it, a spokesperson for UK prime minister Boris Johnson told Reuters.
Other coronavirus news
There have been more than 50 million coronavirus cases confirmed globally, according to Johns Hopkins University, and more than 1.25 million people have died from covid-19. Reuters analysis suggests a second wave of the virus in the past 30 days accounted for a quarter of the total confirmed cases.
Today marks the end of a 17-day “firebreak” lockdown in Wales, with new national restrictions now in force. Groups of up to four people from different households are allowed to meet in cafes, pubs and restaurants, and shops, gyms and hairdressers can reopen.