A CORONAVIRUS vaccine is in sight after one has proven to be 90 per cent effective – in what experts have hailed a "great day for humanity".
American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer today said interim findings from its large-scale clinical trial show it had much better efficacy than expected.
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Drugmakers are now expected to seek US emergency use authorisation later this month in a major victory in the fight against Covid-19.
The UK has 10 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine that could be rolled out by Christmas, once it is approved by regulators.
GPs and hospitals have been told to prepare for the first doses within three weeks.
It's thought the over 85s and NHS staff will recive the first doses.
Experts behind the jab say they are "optimistic" the vaccine could offer protection from Covid-19 "at least a year".
While it was not yet known how long the protection would last, research on recovered patients and earlier findings on their vaccine have led them to believe protection would not be short-lived.
Ugur Sahin, chief executive of BioNTech which has co-developed the jab with Pfizer, said: "We should be more optimistic that the immunisation effect can last for at least a year".
The vaccine has been tested on 43,500 people in six countries and no safety concerns have been raised.
The firm, which is developing the mRNA-based vaccine with BioNTech, said the results were from a independent interim analysis of the results of its phase three clinical study.
It comes as the FTSE 100jumped more than 5.5 per cent, adding £82 billion to the value of its shares in the market’s best day since March.
Dr Albert Bourla, Pfizer chairman and CEO, said: "Today is a great day for science and humanity.
"The first set of results from our phase three Covid-19 vaccine trial provides the initial evidence of our vaccine's ability to prevent Covid-19.
"We are reaching this critical milestone in our vaccine development programme at a time when the world needs it most with infection rates setting new records, hospitals nearing over-capacity and economies struggling to reopen.
"With today's news, we are a significant step closer to providing people around the world with a much-needed breakthrough to help bring an end to this global health crisis.
"We look forward to sharing additional efficacy and safety data generated from thousands of participants in the coming weeks.
"I want to thank the thousands of people who volunteered to participate in the clinical trial, our academic collaborators and investigators at the study sites, and our colleagues and collaborators around the world who are dedicating their time to this crucial endeavour.
"We could not have come this far without the tremendous commitment of everyone involved."
Pfizer expects to seek broad US emergency use authorisation of the vaccine for people aged 16 to 85.
To do so, it will need to have collected two months of safety data on around half of the study's roughly 44,000 participants, expected in late November.
"I'm near ecstatic," Bill Gruber, one of Pfizer's top vaccine scientists, said in an interview.
"This is a great day for public health and for the potential to get us all out of the circumstances we're now in."
Pfizer said the interim analysis was conducted after 94 participants in the trial developed Covid-19, examining how many of them received the vaccine versus a placebo.
The company did not break down exactly how many of those who fell ill received the vaccine.
Still, over 90 per cent effectiveness implies that no more than 8 of the 94 people who caught Covid-19 had been given the vaccine, which was administered in two shots about three weeks apart.
The efficacy rate is well above the 50 per cent effectiveness required by the US Food and Drug Administration for a coronavirus vaccine.
To confirm its efficacy rate, Pfizer said it will continue the trial until there are 164 Covid-19 cases among participants.
Given the recent spike in US infection rates, that number could be reached by early December, Gruber said.
The data have yet to be peer-reviewed or published in a medical journal. Pfizer said it would do so once it has results from the entire trial.
Last week, NHS chief exec, Sir Simon Stevens, told MPs: "We're waiting to fire the starting gun."
Kate Bingham, chair of the UK vaccine taskforce, said patients could be receiving a safe and effective vaccine within weeks.
It could mean that Brist get immunised when the country comes out of lockdown, and just in time for Christmas.
Vaccine chiefs said the UK will have stockpiled 10 million doses by the end of the year, with four million doses of the Oxford jab ready in that time too.
Ian Jones, professor of virology at the University of Reading, said the Pfizer trial data shows "really impressive protection and no reported adverse events".
He said: "Of all the current vaccines currently in development the BioNtech product always looked like the most bang-per-buck as it is entirely focused on the part of the virus that binds to the human cell, the receptor binding domain.
"The questions around its use were about the ability to manufacture at scale and the possible toxicity associated with a directly injected RNA product.
"The trial data show excellent results in both of those areas, really impressive protection and no reported adverse events.
"The only things we will not know for some time is the longevity of the response in all age groups, but assuming antibody titres are high that should be at least as good as any other vaccine currently in trial."
Prof Peter Horby, from the Unviersity of Oxford, said the "watershed moment" made him "smile from ear to ear".
"It is a relief to see such positive results on this vaccine and bodes well for Covid-19 vaccines in general.
"Of course we need to see more detail and await the final results, and there is a long long way to go before vaccines will start to make a real difference, but this feels to me like a watershed moment.”
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