Pfizer's COVID-19 Vaccine Is 94% Effective for People Over 65

The new vaccine has been tested on tens of thousands of volunteers and may be the long-awaited answer to COVID-19.
Loukia Papadopoulos

In the battle against COVID-19, a vaccine is crucial and according to recent findings, we may have finally found a good candidate. A vaccine being developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE  was found to prevent more than 90% of infections in a study of tens of thousands of volunteers, reported Pfizer.


“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,” said Dr. Albert Bourla, Pfizer Chairman and CEO. 

The results were procured by an interim analysis that took place after 94 participants, separated between those who got a placebo and those who were vaccinated, contracted the virus. However, the trial will not be completed until 164 cases have taken place and been evaluated.

UPDATE Nov. 18, 8:00 AM EST: Pfizer and BioNTech's vaccine is effective in protecting 94% of those over 65

Further data released from the ongoing Phase 3 trial of the vaccine suggests that the vaccine is equally effective for people of all ethnic backgrounds and ages. The companies are preparing to apply for authorization in the U.S.

Following the U.S. company Moderna's announcement that its vaccine (which is also an mRNA vaccine, which hasn't been used on people before) is 95% effective, Pfizer and BioNTech made another announcement that their vaccine is also 95% effective and that it has caused no serious side-effects. The only notable side effect according to the data is headaches and fatigue, which about 2% reported.

There were also concerns that the vaccine would not be as effective for the elderly, the companies report that's not the case as "The observed efficacy in adults over 65 years of age was over 94%."

In their trial, 42% of all participants come from diverse ethnic backgrounds and 41% of all are aged between 56 and 85. The companies announced that they're expecting to produce 50 million doses of the vaccine (note that each person requires two) by the end of this year and up to 1.3 billion by the end of 2021.

Good effectiveness

Still, the news is extremely promising particularly since it comes with an effectiveness of 90%. The effectiveness of the first vaccines was expected to be at a much lower range of 60% to 70%.

“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.

However, for now, a lot of details on the vaccine’s efficacy are missing such as how well it works in subgroups and whether it prevents severe disease. Analyses that could provide that data have yet to be conducted.

The good news is that the trial’s data monitoring committee has not yet spotted any serious safety concerns. For the time being, Pfizer needs to get two months of safety follow-up data in order to be granted an emergency authorization by U.S. regulators.

If all goes well with that data, Pfizer could submit an application for authorization in the U.S. this month. Here's hoping the vaccine will spell the end of a pandemic that has killed more than 1.2 million people worldwide.

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