BioNTech’s vaccine is a light at the end of this pandemic’s tunnel
Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic has begun wreaking havoc throughout the world, killing 1.25m people and destroying the economy, scientists have been racing to find a vaccine to bring the world back to normalcy again. BioNTech and Pfizer’s ground breaking progress in creating a vaccine, may just be a light to at the end of this long pandemic tunnel we have been in. Their announcement of a possible successful vaccine brings great hope towards the possibility of bringing an end to the global health crisis.
About the vaccine
BioNTech, with the help of Pfizer which has the capacity of running large clinical trials, has developed a vaccine that preliminary findings show is 90% effective. This vaccine is now on its way to be the first approved vaccination in the EU and US .
Phase 3 trials of the vaccine involved more than 43,000 participants (far exceeding the threshold required by regulators) from six countries (including ethnic minority populations). The width and breadth of the study is a great testament to the reliability of the findings.
Participants received 2 doses of either immunisation or placebo, with 90% of participants being protected from the virus within 28 days of having their immunisations. This is a spectacular result for a first generation vaccine, with a much higher efficacy as compared to the flu vaccine which only protects 30%-60% of people.
The companies are expecting to have thorough safety data from the trial available by the end of November and has the capacity to produce 50 million doses of vaccine by this year and 1.3 billion by 2021. At present, there are no known significant side effects of using the vaccine, but it is still awaiting FDA approval.
A vaccine using mRNA technology
This vaccine is based on mRNA technology that has never been used before, and is based on the method of sending genetic info to a cell that can be translated into proteins, instead of introducing antigens into the body to produce an immune response. This data not only brings hope for the world to begin to combat the coronavirus, but is also an inspiration that other vaccines relying on the same mRNA technology could also potentially yield similar encouraging results.
The NHS has already begun making the relevant preparations to distribute the vaccine. The UK government has already secured 40 million doses, which will be enough for 20 million people. If the vaccine is approved for use in time, 10 million doses could be administered by end of year. The people who will get the vaccines first are those who live and work in care homes, followed by the elderly and clinically vulnerable, as they are the most susceptible and vulnerable to the disease. Vaccination clinics would begin to open seven days a week and centres for vaccination would also be set up in community spaces such as sports halls.
Practicing cautious optimism
Although the formulation of this vaccine is good news, the world still has much more to overcome and unfortunately we won’t be able to take this news as the solution to all our problems. We need to practice cautious optimism for the time being and cannot be complacent as we still have a long way to go before beating Covid-19 completely. Some worries are that although the vaccine may be clinically safe and effective at protecting an individual, it is not clear if it stops transmission of the virus. In addition to this, the immune systems of elderly tend to respond less well to things like vaccinations and this vaccine may not be suitable for use by everyone. It is still important for other vaccine companies to continue development so that there can be accessible and reliable vaccines for everyone. However, the world has overcome a significant hurdle in the battle against the coronavirus, which is definitely a cause for celebration!
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