A Vaccine for Spring
After almost a year of the world’s ongoing search for a solution to Covid, Lucy Aylmer discuss Pfizer’s recent breakthrough in producing an effective Covid vaccine.
Society is in dire need of hope. For too long we have been recipients of unwelcome news going from bad to dreadful. And suddenly, it was as if a switch had been flipped and there was a shining beacon of light at the end of the tunnel; first came Biden as president, a huge relief to many Americans tired of Trumps’ careless twitter posts and untactful approach to foreign diplomacy. The next success story was Pfizer-BioNTech’s progress towards a covid-19 vaccine.
In a press release last week, Pfizer confirmed that their vaccine was “95% effective against COVID-19 beginning 28 days after the first dose”. The research was conducted across four US states, including: Rhodesia Island, Texas, New Mexico and Tennessee. The rationale was attributed to diversity of size, population and infrastructure. This validated reliability of results through a varied sample size and enabled consistent efficacy across age, gender, race and ethnicity.
Not only does the vaccine appear economically viable, it also is focussed and seemingly effective to its target market: the elderly.
The vaccine is made up of mRNA which carries instructions for the recipients immune system to activate bodily proteins to strengthen the immune system (The FT). The major benefit of Pfizer’s development is that it requires only 30 micro grams of RNA per dosage, whereas rival Moderna’s requires 100 micro grams. This makes Pfizer’s vaccine more cost effective and efficient to produce. Indeed, the vaccine has also given hope to firms like Disney, Carnival and International Consolidated Airlines Group which saw share prices rise amid Pfizer’s news. The OECD has predicted a bounce back growth rate of 7% for 2021.
Not only does the vaccine appear economically viable, it also is focussed and seemingly effective to its target market: the elderly. In fact, the shielding category received promising results with efficacy rates of 94% for the over 65’s demographic. According to statistician Professor David Spiegelhalter of Cambridge University, “age seems to be the overwhelmingly dominant influence on mortality“. Considering the disease is far more deadly for the oldest victims than it is for the young, the strong efficacy rates for the over 65’s is a step in the right direction.
On the other side on the pond the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine is also making a breakthrough. Whilst it is at an earlier stage than Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech, developments have elicited an encouraging immune system responses with over 70% efficacy rates. Currently, the vaccine is at phase three trials which measures its efficacy; a vital regulation metric.
Defeating COVID-19 is an international effort that requires teamwork and the sharing of science.
The study observed 560 individuals, with 240 of those over the age of 70. The age demographic was diverse. However, all participants were recruited during the spring lockdown when the vulnerable were isolating and subsequently the research subjects were all non-smokers and healthy individuals. This could be an issue considering the current vaccine relies on a strong working immune system in order to be effective. Therefore, those with immune system deficiencies or those prescribed on immune-suppressing drugs, for illnesses such as cancer, would be at a disadvantage. It is paramount that the drug is inclusive to everyone regardless of age, ethnicity or previous illness. No one should be left behind in the fight to combat coronavirus.
Defeating COVID-19 is an international effort that requires teamwork and the sharing of science. The international development of a vaccine, whether it is the UK’s AstraZeneca or Russia’s self-assured Sputnik shows progress and the potential for cooperation. Could the vaccine development offer a long-forgotten sense of unity in geopolitics?