Just eight months after the pandemic was declared, a COVID-19 vaccine is on the horizon.
“It’s really positive news, I’m quite excited about it. Early in 2021, we should have a vaccine to add to our tools to stop this pandemic,” said B.C.’s provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry in a press conference on Monday.
American pharmaceutical giant Pfizer Incorporated teamed up with BioNTech, a German biotechnology company. Pfizer announced this morning, their COVID-19 vaccine trials were successful.
“The hopes of billions of people and millions of businesses and hundreds of governments, we felt on our shoulders. I think we can credibly say we see the light a the end of the tunnel,” said Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla.
The trial is still ongoing, but according to the pharmaceutical giant, their vaccine was more than 90 per cent effective in preventing COVID-19, a high success rate.
“When we talk about a vaccine against a virus like this, of 90 percent is really good,” said Dr. Henry. “We know that if we get at least 50 or 60 per cent protection, that is going to make a major difference in stopping the spread.”
Pfizer says the study enrolled 43,538 participants, some of whom were given the trial vaccine, and others who were given a placebo. So far, only 94 participants tested positive for COVID-19.
The clinical trial will continue until there are 164 confirmed cases of COVID-19.
The release says 42 per cent of participants had diverse backgrounds, and no serious safety concerns have been observed, but safety and additional efficacy data continue to be collected, says Pfizer.
The American-based company is planning to submit authorization from the FDA soon after the required safety milestone is achieved, which is currently expected to occur in the third week of November
If approved, it could soon be coming to Canada.
“When it is safe to distribute we will certainly begin distribution in Canada to high priority groups, that will most likely happen in Q1 or the first three months of 2021,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
While looking promising, there’s one major logistical hiccup. The vaccine needs to be stored below minus 70 degrees Celsius.
“There’s not a lot of minus 70 freezers available in our community, so the logistics of getting this vaccine are going to be complicated,” said Henry.
Henry says The BC CDC and Health Canada are already working on those logistics, figuring out to how to safely transport and store the COVID-19 vaccine.
Trudeau says Canada had already pre-ordered 20 million doses of this candidate, but according to Pfizer, each person needs two doses, two weeks apart, meaning the nation’s 20 million doses can only serve 10 million people.
Henry says not everyone will be able to get the vaccine right away and priority will be given to seniors, health care workers, and those with high-risk conditions.
As cases continue to surge across the nation, this news could be the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel but there are still questions to be answered, such as how long the vaccine lasts, and if it protects all age groups.