US President-elect Joe Biden on Monday congratulated Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE after they said that their vaccine candidate was found to be more than 90 per cent effective in preventing COVID-19.
Biden, in a statement issued after the announcement, said that he congratulates “the brilliant women and men who helped produce this breakthrough and to give us such cause for hope”.
At the same time, it is also important to understand that the end of the battle against COVID-19 is still months away, he said.
This news follows a previously announced timeline by industry officials that forecast vaccine approval by late November. Even if that is achieved, and some Americans are vaccinated later this year, it will be many more months before there is widespread vaccination in the US, the President-elect said.
This is why the head of the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) warned this fall that for the foreseeable future, a mask remains a more potent weapon against the virus than the vaccine, he said.
Today’s news does not change this urgent reality. Americans will have to rely on masking, distancing, contact tracing, hand washing, and other measures to keep themselves safe well into next year. Today’s news is great news, but it doesn’t change that fact, Biden said.
“America is still losing over 1,000 people a day from COVID-19, and that number is rising, and will continue to get worse unless we make progress on masking and other immediate actions. That is the reality for now, and for the next few months. Today’s announcement promises the chance to change that next year, but the tasks before us now remain the same,” he added.
His statement came after Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE said their vaccine candidate was found to be more than 90 per cent effective in preventing COVID-19.
“Today is a great day for science and humanity. The first set of results from our Phase 3 COVID-19 vaccine trial provides the initial evidence of our vaccine’s ability to prevent COVID-19,” Pfizer Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla said.
“We are reaching this critical milestone in our vaccine development program at a time when the world needs it most with infection rates setting new records, hospitals nearing over-capacity and economies struggling to reopen,” he added.
However, the announcement does not mean a vaccine is imminent.
Pfizer Inc cautioned the initial protection rate might change by the time the study ends. Pfizer said that it plans submission for Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) soon after the required safety milestone is achieved. It is currently expected to occur in the third week of November.
“The first interim analysis of our global Phase 3 study provides evidence that a vaccine may effectively prevent COVID-19. This is a victory for innovation, science and a global collaborative effort,” said Prof. Ugur Sahin, BioNTech co-founder and CEO.
The Phase 3 clinical trial of BNT162b2 began on July 27 and has enrolled 43,538 participants to date, 38,955 of whom have received a second dose of the vaccine candidate as of November 8, 2020. Approximately 42 per cent of the global participants and 30 per cent of the US participants have racially and ethnically diverse backgrounds.
In a tweet, White House Deputy Press Secretary Judd Deere said because of the leadership of President Donald Trump, the US is going to have a safe and effective vaccine far sooner than anyone predicted. “President Trump has always put the health and safety of the American people first!” he said.
The Republican National Committee said that Trump’s aggressive response to the coronavirus pandemic is paying off for the American people. “While Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have sought to politicise the vaccine and the pandemic at every turn, President Trump puts the American people first,” it alleged.
Following a tense week of vote tallying, Democratic presidential candidate Biden on Saturday won the state of Pennsylvania and vaulted ahead in the race to become the next president of the United States. Biden’s win in the key battleground state put him over the threshold of 270 electoral votes, cutting off all avenues for his opponent.
His running mate, Indian-origin Kamala Harris will make history in myriad ways, becoming the first woman – and the first woman of colour – to occupy the office.