The final numbers, released last Wednesday, showed that of the 170 subjects in the trial who caught COVID-19, 162 had received the placebo, meaning that the vaccine was 95% effective. It also was 94% effective in people 65 and older. Nine of the 10 subjects who came down with severe COVID-19 had received the placebo, meaning that the vaccine protects against severe disease.
This is a momentous vaccine. It will be the first RNA vaccine and, by far, the fastest to be developed and distributed, which will revolutionize vaccinology. This moved rapidly for several reasons. 1) The RNA vaccine platform had already been developed and it was just a matter of inserting the genome sequence for the viral spike protein into it. 2) RNA vaccine technology greatly speeds vax development since it completely avoids the need to grow massive amounts of virus iteslf. 3) Genome sequencing is now done very rapidly. The Chinese published the CoV-2 genome sequence in just a few weeks after the new virus was identified. 4) Pfizer began mass production of the vaccine while it was still in the experimental stage and not yet approved, thereby eliminating the typical delay required to ramp up production capability. 5) Trump’s Operation Warp Speed pre-planned for the massive storage and distribution effort that will be needed so that as soon as approval is granted, the already manufactured vaccine can immediately be distributed.
After approval, vaccine for about 25 million people will be immediately available for distribution and the US is scheduled to receive half of that. 1.3 billion doses are expected to be produced next year, which will enough to vaccinate 650 million people. In the US, it is likely that the first doses will go to health-care workers, followed by those at high risk, people in nursing homes, and prisoners. The general public probably will not get access until the spring or summer. The US has agreed to pay Pfizer and BioNTech nearly $2 billion for 100 million doses, enough to vaccinate 50 million people at no charge to them.
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