Britain’s Prime Minister says the world cannot yet rely on the vaccine breakthrough of the American pharmaceutical company Pfizer Inc. as a solution to the COVID pandemic.
Pfizer, which is working with German biotechnology company BioNTech SE to develop the vaccine, said after an initial analysis of data from a major study that its vaccine is “more than 90 percent effective” in preventing COVID-19.
Boris Johnson said the UK had ordered enough of the Pfizer vaccine for a third of the population, but warned the public that it was not ready. At a press conference at 10 Downing Street, the Prime Minister said the vaccine was not yet ready: “Of course this is good news, but there is still a long way to go before we beat this thing.
“I am very hopeful that we will get the [vaccine]samples that we have ordered and I thank the Vaccine Task Force who have been ensuring the UK’s supply for a long time and it is right that they have done so,” the Prime Minister said.
“But only on a speculative basis, yes, of course, I remain optimistic about this country’s prospects next year, I just don’t want people to run away with the idea that this development today is necessarily a home run, a slam-dunk, a shot in the back of the net”.
Britain’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, said it is too early to say what the vaccine will do to “get life back to normal”, adding that he does not believe the vaccine will change anything about the second wave that is currently devouring Britain and much of Europe.
Both Johnson and Van-Tam urged the British not to relax and warned people that they must continue to play by the rules. England is currently under a month-long national lockdown, Wales today emerged from a two-week shutdown, while Scotland and Northern Ireland have imposed their own strict restrictions.
“I must emphasize that these are still very, very early days,” Johnson said. “We’ve talked at length about the distant horn of the scientific cavalry coming down the front of the hill, or I have talked about it.
“And tonight the horn is louder. But it’s still far away. And we absolutely cannot rely on that as a solution. The biggest mistake we could make now would be to let up our determination at such a critical moment.
Pfizer said that no serious safety concerns have been identified in the testing of the vaccine so far. Pfizer expects to apply to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for emergency approval (EUA) of the vaccine in November, once the FDA has collected more safety data.
The company expects to produce up to 50 million doses of vaccine worldwide in 2020 and up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021. “Today is a great day for science and mankind,” said Pfizer Chairman Albert Bourla in a statement on Monday.
“We are reaching this critical milestone in our vaccine development program at a time when the world needs it most, as infection rates reach new records, hospitals fail due to overcapacity and economies struggle to reopen.
The data has yet to be published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal, although Pfizer has announced that it will do so once the Phase III study is completed.
The total number of coronavirus cases worldwide has risen to over 50 million, with 1.25 million deaths reported worldwide, according to Johns Hopkins University.