Early data shows 90%+ effectiveness, Wall Street soars in response
Monday’s news of progress toward a potential COVID-19 vaccine inspired smiles by doctors, a rally on Wall Street and hope for the nation.
Pfizer announced that it saw more than 90% of infections prevented during the trial for its vaccine, BNT162b2.
More than 40,000 people were enrolled in the Pfizer trial.
After Monday’s news, the Dow, S&P and Nasdaq hit record highs. The Dow Jones Industrial Average climbed almost 835 points and was at 29,157.97 by the end of trading. It was Wall Street’s biggest rally since February.
Pfizer, a New York City pharmaceutical company, reported no serious safety issues to an independent data monitoring board, which recommended that the trial continue as planned. It is slated to proceed until
at least 164 participants become sick with one symptom of the coronavirus.
Before the vaccine could be distributed to the public at large, it would have to be evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Pfizer said it could ask the FDA by the end of November for emergency authorization of the vaccine.
The news of the vaccine was welcomed by physicians everywhere from Washington, D.C., to Santa Barbara.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the Washington Post that the trial’s results were extraordinary.
Locally, Dr. David Fisk, Cottage Health’s medical director of infectious prevention and control, said the trial’s 90% effectiveness is “an unusually high number.”
“I am certainly smiling, but with an air of caution,” Dr. Fisk told the News-Press.
“Even though the early reports of the effectiveness of this vaccine were very, very encouraging, there’s no information about safety. It’ll be a couple more weeks until that information is released,” said Dr. Fisk, who’s also an infectious disease physician at Sansum Clinic.
“Is it safe to use? That has to be a very high standard,” Dr. Fisk added.
“If the vaccine does pass safety standards, it will definitely come to small groups, small subsets of the population, before it becomes widely available,” he said.
Dr. Fisk said Santa Barbara and the rest of California may have to wait until the vaccine is distributed to parts of the country with a higher number of COVID cases.
Meanwhile, Pfizer was clearly pleased with the early results.
“This is about the best news for the world and for the United States and for public health,” William Gruber, Pfizer senior vice president for vaccine clinical research and development, said in a statement.
Uger Sahin, the CEO of BioNTech CEO, Pfizer’s partner in the vaccine, called the 90 percent rate of effectiveness “extraordinary.”
“It shows that COVID-19 can be controlled,” Mr. Sahin told Bloomberg.
Fifty million doses of the vaccine will be produced by the end of 2020, according to Pfizer and BioNTech. The companies added that they would like to produce 1.3 billion doses by the end of 2021.
But according to Cottage Health’s Dr. Fisk, “That’s only half the picture with this vaccine.”
He pointed to the logistical challenges of administering the Pfizer vaccine in the field.
“It has to be stored at 70 degrees below 0 Celsius in special freezers that most places don’t have access to and are in short supply because of COVID,” Dr. Fisk told the News-Press.
“Once it’s taken out of the refrigerator, the vaccine is only viable for two hours on the shelf,” he said. “It really limits the use of it and places where it can be administered.
“This is not likely to be a vaccine that is available for us in individual physicians’ or practitioners’ offices because of all these challenges,” Dr. Fisk said.
But he noted Cottage Health, which operates hospitals in Santa Barbara, Goleta and Solvang, is having discussions with the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department, Sansum Clinic and others on how to deploy the vaccine when and if it becomes available.
“And I have to emphasize the ‘if,’ ” Dr. Fisk said.
He said at-risk populations, such as seniors in nursing homes, should be on the early priority lists for the vaccine. “My personal opinion is that if it is shown this vaccine is shown to work in older, at-risk individuals in congregate living, they should be among the first to get it.”
Dr. Fisk said early recipients could include Vandenberg Air Force Base, which would receive doses from the federal government.
He expressed concern about the risk that news of the promising vaccine results might lead people to become lax about wearing masks, maintaining social distancing and washing hands.
“I think that would be foolish,” Dr. Fisk said. “We don’t know if the vaccine will come out and how safe it will be. It will be a long time before a large number of people could get it.”
After Pzifer’s announcement, Vice President Mike Pence, the head of the White House’s COVID-19 task force, tweeted that the vaccine resulted from the partnership between the Trump administration and the private sector.
Pzifer said it hasn’t used taxpayer funds to develop the vaccine, but the U.S. government placed a $2 billion order over the summer for 100 million doses.
Meanwhile, Joe Biden on Monday announced the names of people on his pandemic advisory board. Mr. Biden has been declared the winner of the presidential race by some of the national media, with outlets’ projections varying between 279 and 290 Electoral College votes.
President Donald Trump has not conceded, and his legal challenges are continuing. Under the Constitution, the Electoral College’s votes will be counted Jan. 6 before a joint session of Congress.
Some media on Monday said election results, along with the Pfizer news, contributed to the Wall Street rally.