On Monday, the German company Pfizer and its partner, BioNTech, announced preliminary results indicating that their vaccine for the emerging coronavirus was more than 90% effective, so what should you know about the corona vaccine? What do we not know? What’s the bad news?
1- How does the vaccine work?
The idea of this vaccine is to inject the body with a genetic material known as “messenger RNA” or “messenger RNA”, which is a molecule that tells our cells what to make, according to a report published in the French newspaper “Nouvelle Observator“.
The messenger RNA that controls this mechanism is introduced to manufacture a specific antigen for the Coronavirus: the “spike” Coronavirus, which is a very distinctive tip on its surface that allows it to attach to human cells to penetrate it. This thorn will then be detected by the immune system, which will produce the antibodies, and these antibodies will remain for a certain period of time.
2- What are the details of the experiment?
In July, Pfizer and BioNtech began a clinical trial on a vaccine for the Coronavirus. Half of the participants received the vaccine, while the other half took a placebo of saltwater. Then the two companies waited until people got sick to determine whether the vaccine provided any Protection, according to a New York Times report written by Carl Zimmer and Katie Thomas.
So far, 94 participants out of nearly 44,000 people have contracted COVID-19, the authors said. An independent panel of experts looked at how many who got the vaccine and who got the placebo. This early analysis indicates that the vaccine is more than 90% effective.
3- Is this a good result?
Yes, the result is excellent, and if the results are accurate and the vaccine works this way when vaccinated with it, it will protect millions of people.
4- When is the vaccine available?
The two vaccine companies will obtain official clearance from the US Food and Drug Administration during the third week of November.
Pfizer announced on its official website that it would collect safety data for two months after the final dose to obtain emergency use permission.
“After collecting safety data for an average of two months after the second and last dose of the vaccine at the request of the Food and Drug Administration, the vaccine will be available by the third week of November,” the company said.
To obtain a license to distribute the vaccine, specific criteria are required, which are efficacy, safety, and the ability to produce regularly. If approved by the competent US authorities, the vaccine may be available in late 2020 or early 2021.
5- What are the production quantities?
“RNA vaccines are distinguished by the ability to be produced easily and in vast quantities,” said Daniel Fleurier, vice president of the technical committee for vaccines at the Supreme Health Authority in France.
According to expectations, the two producing companies intend to distribute approximately 50 million doses of the vaccine worldwide by the end of 2020. Pfizer is currently producing sufficient doses for approximately 25 million people, knowing that one person needs two doses. As for next year, the American company says it can produce about 1.3 billion doses.
6- Who will get the new vaccine first?
According to Pfizer’s statements, it could have 30 to 40 million doses of the vaccine before the end of the year, which is enough 15 to 20 million people to get an initial and supportive dose after 3 weeks.
It has not been decided exactly who will qualify for the initial doses. Still, the groups most at risk of infection, or those most at risk of contracting the virus, will likely be given priority. This can include health care workers, the elderly, and those with risk factors such as obesity or diabetes.
7- Can we stop wearing masks now?
The answer is no, prevention guidelines must be continued, and most experts say that even when the vaccine is widely available, additional measures such as masks will remain necessary until the threat of the Coronavirus to the community’s public health recedes.
What we do not know?
1- Are we sure of the effectiveness of the vaccine?
While the preliminary results provide some convincing evidence that the vaccine is effective, they do not tell us with certainty how effective it will be. Clinical trials are not designed to do this. They can only allow scientists to make an estimate based on statistics, which is known as effectiveness. A vaccine’s effectiveness can only be firmly determined after millions of people have had it. But experts say that preliminary data indicate that the effect should be very high.
2- Does the vaccine protect the elderly?
The new results do not tell us whether the elderly will get strong vaccine protection. The clinical trials of Pfizer and Biontec involve people over the age of 65, so they will ultimately provide this important information.
Early clinical studies indicated that older adults produce a weaker immune response to coronavirus vaccines. But with such strong preliminary evidence, they will likely still have strong vaccine protection.
3- Does the vaccine protect children?
We don’t have an answer for a moment, the experiment conducted by Pfizer and Biontek was initially open to those 18 or older, but in September, they began hugging teens as young as 16.
4- How long does the protection last?
It is not clear whether the vaccine will continue to be effective. According to Foreign Policy writer Laurie Garrett, “What this Pfizer study shows so far: For 90% of volunteers who got the vaccine (unlike placebo), SARS-CoV-2 did not develop (The scientific name for Coronavirus) for a 7-day study.
If this protection turns out to last for an entire year, for example, then the Pfizer vaccine may be considered a surprising success. But no one will wait a year to find out.
The bad news
1- The vaccine needs special storage conditions
The Pfizer vaccine depends on its composition on messenger RNA (mRNA) – the genetic blueprint for protein production – which stimulates human cells to make millions of copies of the spike protein that protrudes from the surface of SARS-CoV-2 viruses.
But this vaccine is very unstable, and to maintain its effectiveness, it must be stored until the time of injection at a temperature of at least -103 degrees Fahrenheit (-75 degrees Celsius), which is well below anything a standard freezer can handle.
Few health departments, hospitals, or doctors’ offices currently have stocks of dry ice or super freeze devices that can maintain consistently low temperatures. And it doesn’t have piles of portable units that can do the job. Dry ice with refrigerators can do the job, but the world faces a shortage of pure carbon dioxide, which turns into dry ice upon freezing.
2- The vaccine is not a panacea soon
The vaccine will not come in time to save the world for the next several months, as the Coronavirus will kill many people unless the public takes more stringent public health measures, such as social distancing, wearing masks and personal hygiene measures.
Source: Al Jazeera and Agencies