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2 promising vaccines against COVID-19


edt editorial

OF ten COVID-19 candidate vaccines in their final human trials, two reported highly promising initial results of their final Phase 3 human trials early this month.

American drugmaker Pfizer, in partnership with Germany’s BioNTech, announced on November 9 that tests showed that its vaccine was more than 90 percent effective in tests involving 43,000 volunteers. Pfizer CEO Albert Bouria said this may be “the greatest medical advance in the last 100 years.”

A week later, on November 16, Moderna Inc., a biotechnology firm based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, announced that its vaccine was 94.5 percent effective in protecting people from infection. “These are obviously very exciting results,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said. “94.5 percent is truly outstanding.”

Both companies announced their findings in press releases, not in peer-reviewed journals with detailed data that outside experts could evaluate. Moderna already has a $1.5-billion contract with the US government to provide the US with 100 million doses of its vaccine under President Trump’s Operation Warp Speed.

In Geneva, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Athanom Ghebreyesus welcomed the news about the two vaccines. But the WHO right now is extremely concerned about the surge in cases, especially in Europe and the US, he said.


WHO chief scientist Soumya Swaminahan said the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines appear to have high efficacy, “but there are many, many questions still remaining about the duration of protection, the impact on several diseases, the impact on different subpopulations, especially the elderly, as well as adverse events beyond a certain period of time.” Clinical trials must continue, she said, and “we are looking at at least the first half of the year as being a period with very limited doses.”

In other words, there is yet no reason to believe that the COVID-19 pandemic is over and the world’s billions of people can now feel safe from getting infected because of the very positive results vaccine tests.

Tests continue for at least 42 candidate vaccines identified by the WHO. It is thus best for people to maintain at best as it can the precautionary moves that can help stop the spread of the virus.

These include the wearing of face masks and face shields, maintaining one’s distance from another person, avoiding mass gatherings, avoiding touching possible carriers of infection such as door knobs and light switches, and frequent hand-washing.

We may have to keep taking these precautionary measures until at least the middle of next year. We hope we will have the vaccines ready and in quantities enough for the world’s billions of people.