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Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine proves ‘90% effective’ - and UK could get 10 million doses by Christmas

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

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

The UK has ordered 40 million doses - and Downing Street said the UK could get 10 million of them by Christmas, if the vaccine is approved by regulators.

A vaccine is prepared - this one is for flu. Graphic: PA (43044657)
A vaccine is prepared - this one is for flu. Graphic: PA (43044657)

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

The FTSE 100 jumped more than 5.5 per cent on the news, adding £82billion 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.

It is thought the Prime Minister may update the nation on the news in a press conference this evening.

Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said: “The results are promising and while we are optimistic of a breakthrough, we must remember there are no guarantees.”

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.

About 12 Covid-19 vaccines around the world are currently in the final stages of testing - including the one from the University of Oxford, which is working in collaboration with Cambridge-based AstraZeneca - but Pfizer’s is the first to report any results.

Dr Bourla said: “The first set of results from our Phase III 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.”

Ian Jones, professor of virology at the University of Reading, said the Pfizer trial data shows “really impressive protection and no reported adverse events”.

He said: “Of all the current vaccines currently in development, the BioNtech product always looked like the most bang-per-buck as it is entirely focused on the part of the virus that binds to the human cell, the receptor binding domain.

“The questions around its use were about the ability to manufacture at scale and the possible toxicity associated with a directly injected RNA product.

“The trial data show excellent results in both of those areas, really impressive protection and no reported adverse events.”

Global cases of Covid-19. Graphic: PA (43044647)
Global cases of Covid-19. Graphic: PA (43044647)

Dr Michael Head, senior research fellow in global health, University of Southampton, added: “This cautiously sounds like an excellent result from the phase three trials, but we should remain a little cautious.

“If the final results show an effectiveness of anywhere near 90% with response in elderly and ethnic minority populations, that is an excellent result for a first generation vaccine.”

Professor Azra Ghani, chair of infectious disease epidemiology at Imperial College London, said that long-term efficacy data would come over the coming weeks and months.

Prof Ghani said: “These new results represent the first demonstration of substantial efficacy of a vaccine candidate against Covid-19 disease, which is very welcome news.

“The efficacy estimate is based on seven days of follow-up of participants following the second dose; further data in the coming weeks and months will provide a better picture of longer-term vaccine efficacy.”

People will need two doses of the jab, meaning not enough shots have been secured for the entire UK population.

Pfizer and BioNTech expect to be able to produce up to 50 million vaccine doses globally in 2020 and up to 1.3 billion doses in 2021.

The data from the full phase three trial will be submitted for scientific peer-review publication.

The vaccine has been shown to produce both an antibody and T-cell response in the body to fight coronavirus.

Prof Ugur Sahin, one of the founders of BioNTech, described the results as a “milestone”.

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