American pharmaceutical company Pfizer has announced recently that the early data from their clinical trials of the coronavirus vaccine is “more than 90% effective in preventing the disease”.
Developed alongside German drug manufacturing company BioNTech, the vaccine injects RNA from the virus into the body, which is then stimulated to make the characteristic ‘spike’ protein of the virus. The body’s immune system then produces antibodies and activates T-cells as it would in the event of an infection. If the person does then get sick with covid-19, the immune system will already have the antibodies ready to fight it. This vaccine has been shown to be 90% effective in clinical trials, but there are hurdles to overcome before it can be rolled out worldwide; the vaccine will have to be stored at -70 degrees celsius, far colder than any normal freezer which would be available in GP surgeries and care homes.
Vaccine testing is now in stage 3, with 44,000 volunteers having been given the vaccine with no serious side effects. Pfizer believes it will have enough stock of the vaccine to supply 50 million doses of the virus by the end of the year- 10 million of those going to the UK- and they are aiming for 1.3 billion doses by the end of 2021. The 10 million vaccines in the UK will first go to those who need it the most, including vulnerable people, and key workers such as NHS staff and care workers.
Professor Van-Tam, Deputy Chief Medical Officer of the UK, said he is “hopeful but not yet certain we could see some vaccine by Christmas”, but has urged the public to remember that this data cannot be considered final or conclusive. There are 10 other potential vaccines in the final stages of trials, including Oxford University and Astrazeneca’s, and so there is hope that the significant breakthrough by Pfizer will be the force needed to push other vaccines through quickly.
Scientists all agree that a vaccine is definitely necessary before life can get back to normal, as there seems to be no other way to be fully confident that the chain of infection is broken.