An experimental vaccine developed by US pharma giant Pfizer and German firm BioNTech is 90-per-cent effective in preventing Covid-19, the companies announced on Monday, marking a major milestone in the search for a defence against the pandemic.
An initial analysis of data from the drug’s third and final phase of clinical trials showed “no serious safety concerns,” a joint statement said.
The two companies said they would likely apply for emergency use authorization of the vaccine with the United States’ Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the coming week.
The vaccine, dubbed BNT162b2, was first developed by the Mainz-based company BioNTech in mid-January as part of its “Project Lightspeed” in response to the global pandemic.
The crucial phase-3 trial began in late July in various countries.
The potential vaccine has so far been tested on over 43,500 participants with diverse backgrounds, 38,955 of whom had received a second dose as of November 8, BioNTech and Pfizer said.
The mRNA-based drug is said to be effective seven days after the second dose.
Ninety-four cases of the Covid-19 disease caused by the novel coronavirus had been registered in the study by Sunday. The clinical trial is set to continue until 164 cases have been confirmed.
Participants in the trial will also continue to be monitored for an additional two years after their second dose. During this time, developers hope to establish how effective the drug is in not only preventing Covid-19 infection, but also by protecting against serious complications among patients who have already contracted the virus.
There is a huge push in Europe and around the world to find a coronavirus vaccine that has stood the test of all three phases of clinical trial.
The European Medicine Agency, the European Union’s regulator, has already launched rolling reviews under an expedited process for the BioNTech/Pfizer candidate, as well as a drug being tested by AstraZeneca, in collaboration with the University of Oxford.
“Today is a great day for science and humanity,” Pfizer chief executive Albert Bourla said in the joint statement.
“Especially today, while we are all in the midst of a second wave and many of us in lockdown, we appreciate even more how important this milestone is on our path towards ending this pandemic and for all of us to regain a sense of normality,” said BioNTech co-founder and chief executive Ugur Sahin.
The companies’ announcement was also noted by US President Donald Trump on Twitter, who hailed the ensuing stock market rally and wrote “SUCH GREAT NEWS!”
Shares in BioNTech and Pfizer surged following the release of the promising data.
Pfizer shares went up by 9 per cent, while BioNTech saw a 16-per-cent jump. London’s FTSE 100 index jumped by 5 per cent on the news.