Pfizer says new trial data shows Covid vaccine ‘highly effective’ against South African strain

Pfizer and BioNTech stated on Thursday that their jointly developed Covid-19 vaccine is highly effective in combating the South African variant of the virus, according to the company’s latest phase-three trial data.

Pfizer released a statement declaring that new data from South Africa indicated “vaccine efficacy of 100%” despite the prevalence of the fast-spreading B.1.351 variant.

The findings from the phase-three trial come as countries worry about the effectiveness of existing vaccines against new, more transmissible variants of coronavirus, with concerns about how to fully control the disease as it continues to mutate.

“The data also provides 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,” BioNTech chief executive Ugur Sahin said.

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While the company emphasised the positive elements of the trial data, it should be noted that only 800 individuals were involved in the South Africa section of the study, meaning that it could be argued results are limited.

In addition to the findings on the vaccine’s effectiveness against variants, the wider trial showed that the Pfizer jab was 91.3% effective against coronavirus, and 100% in cases of severe disease across the 46,307 participants.

The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is already in use as part of vaccine rollouts across the world, with the US Food and Drug Administration, European Medicines Agency and UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency all granting it temporary authorization. The new trial data will allow the pharmaceutical company to apply for a full Biologics Licence Application in the US, allowing officials to increase its use in the country’s vaccine rollout.

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