By Chioma Obinna & Gabriel Olawale
Pfizer and BioNTech yesterday announced major breakthrough as the newly developed COVID-19 vaccine can prevent more than 90 percent of people from getting infected.
According to preliminary findings, the vaccine has been tested on 43,500 people in six countries, with no safety concerns raised. Two doses, three weeks apart, are needed and trials in US, Germany, Brazil, Argentina, South Africa and Turkey showed 90 percent protection is achieved seven days after the second dose.
But President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, PSN, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, in a swift reaction yesterday, described the development as a success for the world but worries that Nigerians might wait a little longer to have access to the vaccine, since the federal government failed to make early financial commitments to the companies working on the various vaccines.
The vaccine is believed to be a way out of all the restrictions imposed on people around the world.
Nigeria and many other countries imposed restrictions as a means of curbing the spread of COVID-19 that has killed 1,263,787 across the world, according to Worldometer.
However, chairman and CEO of Pfizer, Albert Bourla, said: “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.
“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 are reaching this critical milestone in our vaccine development programme at a time the world needs it most.” Based on supply projections, the companies said they expect to supply up to 50 million vaccine doses globally in 2020, and up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021.
US biotech firm, Moderna, several state-run Chinese labs, and a European project, led by the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca, are thought to be closing in on potentially viable vaccines. The Phase 3 clinical trial — the final stage — of the new vaccine, BNT162b2, began in late July and has enrolled 43,538 participants to date, 90 percent of whom have received a second dose of the vaccine candidate as of November 8.
Pfizer said it was gathering two months of safety data, following the final dose — a requirement of the US Food and Drug Administration — to qualify for Emergency Use Authorization, which it expects by the third week in November. “We look forward to sharing additional efficacy and safety data generated from thousands of participants in the coming weeks,” Bourla said. Pfizer and BioNTech plan to submit data from the full Phase 3 trial for scientific peer-review publication.
As of mid-October, the World Health Organization (WHO) has identified 42 “candidate vaccines” at the stage of clinical trials, up from 11 in mid-June. Ten of them were at the most advanced phase 3 stage, in which a vaccine’s effectiveness is tested on a large scale, generally tens of thousands of people across several continents.
Meanwhile, President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Nigeria, PSN, Mazi Sam Ohuabunwa, who described the development as a success for the world, lamented that Nigerians might have to wait a little longer to have access to the vaccine because the federal government failed to make early financial commitments to the companies working on the vaccines.
According to him, even when the vaccine is ready, the companies will first satisfy countries and governments who have put down resources to compliment their works.
“There is a possibility that with this vaccine the country will be able to access it like any other country, however, our fear is that it will take time for Nigerian to be able to get the vaccine as you are aware that the American government has put down millions of dollars for the companies.
‘’All the companies that are producing vaccines would want to supply to those that put their money down to help them complete their work before selling to other countries.
“What is also worst is that the procurement especially in the area of this kind of infectious diseases is through donor funding. We are going to be waiting for those who put their money down. How I wish I am in the ministry of health.
‘’If I were the President, I will be looking at how we can put our money down like others did, no matter how small. We cannot be waiting until those who participated in the trail are satirised and we will now be getting crumbs.
“It is a good development and it shows that we have got to the point where we can have control over the infection. The vaccine is what is going to help us to control this pandemic. I think the virus is going to stay with us for a long time just like those other reoccurring viruses like HIV etc. Therefore it is a major development and by showing this high level of efficacy.”