Pfizer Covid-19 jab 91% effective in new data, protects against variant found in SA

Pfizer's shot was 100% effective in preventing illness among trial participants in SA, although the sample size was relatively small at 800. File image
Pfizer's shot was 100% effective in preventing illness among trial participants in SA, although the sample size was relatively small at 800. File image
Image: LUCY NICHOLSON/Reuters

Pfizer Inc and BioNTech said on Thursday their Covid-19 vaccine is around 91% effective at preventing the disease, citing updated trial data that included participants inoculated for up to six months.

The shot was also 100% effective in preventing illness among trial participants in SA, where a new variant called B1351 is dominant, although the number of those participants was relatively small at 800.

While the new overall efficacy rate of 91.3% is lower than the 95% originally reported in November 2020 for its 44,000-person trial, a number of variants have become more prevalent around the world since then.

Pfizer’s CEO Albert Bourla said the updated results, which include data on more than 12,000 people fully inoculated for at least six months, positions the drugmakers to submit for full US regulatory approval.

The vaccine is currently authorised on an emergency basis by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The trial data “provide the first clinical results that a vaccine can effectively protect against currently circulating variants, a critical factor to reach herd immunity and end this pandemic for the global population,” said Ugur Sahin, CEO at BioNTech.

Experts fear new variants of Covid-19 from SA and Brazil may be resistant to existing vaccines and treatment. More than 300 cases of the SA variant have been detected in more than 25 US states and jurisdictions, according to federal data.

The vaccine was 100% effective in preventing severe disease as defined by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and 95.3% effective in preventing severe disease as defined by the FDA.

There were also no serious safety concerns observed in trial participants up to six months after the second dose, the companies said.

They said it was generally equally effective irrespective of age, race, gender or ethnicity, and among participants with a variety of existing medical conditions.

The trial reviewed more than 900 confirmed cases of Covid-19, most of which were among participants who received a placebo.

The release of updated results comes on the heels of separate data that showed the vaccine is safe and effective in children aged 12 to 15, paving the way for the drugmakers to seek US and European approval to use the vaccine in this age group within weeks.

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