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Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine 'more than 90% effective in preventing the disease'

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and biotech firm BioNTech have said their coronavirus vaccine was more than 90% effective in preventing Covid-19 among those without evidence of prior infection
Nina Massey, PA Science Correspondent and Jane Kirby

A major breakthrough has been announced in the search for a coronavirus vaccine, with the jab from Pfizer found to be more than 90% effective.

The pharmaceutical giant and its partner BioNTech said interim results showed their jab could prevent people catching Covid-19.

Dr Albert Bourla, Pfizer chairman and chief executive, said: "Today is a great day for science and humanity."

Stormont Health Minister Robin Swann described it as "positive news" and said it was possible the vaccination of at-risk people could begin by the end of next month.

The FTSE 100 jumped more than 5.5% on the news, adding £82 billion to the value of its shares in the market's best day since March.

The vaccine has been tested on 43,500 people in six countries and no safety concerns have been raised.

Pfizer and BioNTech plan to apply to the US Food and Drug Administration - the US medicines regulator - by the end of the month for emergency approval to use the vaccine.

The UK Government has secured about 100 million doses of the jab in an agreement with the companies.

About 12 Covid-19 vaccines around the world are currently in the final stages of testing, but Pfizer's is the first to report any results.

Dr 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."

He added: "We will continue to collect further data as the trial continues to enrol, for a final analysis planned when a total of 164 confirmed Covid-19 cases have accrued.

"I would like to thank everyone who has contributed to make this important achievement possible."

Health Minister Robin Swann welcomed the announcement and urged people to continue limiting contacts, social distancing, hand washing and wearing face coverings.

“However, I would appeal to everyone not to let down their guard just because there is some light at the end of this very long tunnel. It will likely be well into 2021 before a vaccine is generally available to the population – not least because mass global vaccination is a huge logistical challenge," he said.

He said the announcement was reason to "be positive about the future".

"The incredible progress to date on developing a vaccine - together with planned mass testing and improved treatments - means we can look towards next spring with some hope. Pessimists keep telling us we will be locked into endless stop-start cycles of restrictions. I have faith that they will be proved wrong.” 

First Minister Arlene Foster tweeted: “The fight of common humanity against COVID is making significant strides forward. Great news from the vaccine trials. This is much needed hope. Our thanks to all those working on vaccine research.”

Alliance Health spokesperson Paula Bradshaw said: “The challenge now is to work out exactly what kind and length of immunity this vaccine will offer, and how the logistics of meeting the orders requires will be handled. It should be emphasised the whole process, including distribution, will take many months even if all goes perfectly.

“For now we await the outcome of further safety tests and the detail of the protection offered. I note 30 million doses have been ordered by the UK Government, and we now require a four-nation agreement on how to take forward the logistics and ensure the most vulnerable are protected.

“This breakthrough re-emphasises the need to keep transmission rates low pending the delivery of the vaccine. I would urge the Executive to consider carefully its next steps with that in mind.”

Read more: What does the Pfizer vaccine announcement mean for me?

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