Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine deliveries could start ‘before Christmas’
Pfizer and BioNTech could secure emergency U.S. and European authorization for their COVID-19 vaccine next month after final trial results showed it had a 95 percent success rate and no serious side effects, the drugmakers said on Wednesday.
The vaccine’s efficacy was found to be consistent across different ages and ethnicities – a promising sign given the disease has disproportionately hurt the elderly and certain groups including Black people.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration could grant emergency-use by the middle of December, BioNTech Chief Executive Ugur Sahin told Reuters TV. Conditional approval in the European Union could be secured in the second half of December, he added.
“If all goes well I could imagine that we gain approval in the second half of December and start deliveries before Christmas, but really only if all goes positively,” he said.
The success rate of the vaccine developed by the U.S. drugmaker and German partner BioNTech was far higher than what regulators had said would have been acceptable. Experts said it was a significant achievement in the race to end the pandemic.
Of the 170 volunteers who contracted COVID-19 in Pfizer’s trial involving over 43,000 people, 162 had received a placebo and not the vaccine, meaning the vaccine was 95 percent effective. Of the 10 people who had severe COVID-19, one had received the vaccine.
“A first in the history of mankind: less than a year from the sequence of the virus to the large-scale clinical trial of a vaccine, moreover based on a whole new technique,” said Enrico Bucci, a biologist at Temple University in Philadelphia. “Today is a special day.”
BioNTech’s Sahin said U.S. emergency use authorization (EUA) would be applied for on Friday.
An FDA advisory committee tentatively plans to meet on December 8-10 to discuss the vaccine, a source familiar with the situation said, though the dates could change. The FDA did not respond to requests for comment.