COVID-19 jab is 91% effective, protective against South African variant: Pfizer

FILE PHOTO: A healthcare worker prepares a Pfizer coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccination in Los Angeles, California, U.S., January 7, 2021. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/File Photo (REUTERS)

Pfizer and BioNTech today announced updated topline results from analysis of 927 confirmed symptomatic cases of COVID-19 observed in their pivotal Phase 3 study through March 13, 2021, showing the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine, BNT162b2, was 91.3% effective against COVID-19, measured seven days through up to six months after the second dose.

The vaccine was 100% effective against severe disease as defined by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and 95.3% effective against severe COVID-19 as defined by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Safety data from the Phase 3 study has also been collected from more than 12,000 vaccinated participants who have a follow-up time of at least six months after the second dose, demonstrating a favorable safety and tolerability profile.

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

“These data confirm the favorable efficacy and safety profile of our vaccine and position us to submit a Biologics License Application to the U.S. FDA,” said Albert Bourla, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Pfizer. “The high vaccine efficacy observed through up to six months following a second dose and against the variant prevalent in South Africa provides further confidence in our vaccine’s overall effectiveness.”

“It is an important step to further confirm the strong efficacy and good safety data we have seen so far, especially in a longer-term follow-up,” said Ugur Sahin, CEO and Co-founder of BioNTech. “These data also 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.”

Results from this analysis of 46,307 trial participants build upon and confirm previously released data and demonstrate strong protection against COVID-19 through six months post-second dose. From the 927 confirmed symptomatic cases of COVID-19 in the trial, 850 cases of COVID-19 were in the placebo group and 77 cases were in the BNT162b2 group, corresponding to vaccine efficacy of 91.3% (95% confidence interval [CI, 89.0, 93.2]).

Thirty-two cases of severe disease, as defined by the CDC, were observed in the placebo group versus none in the BNT162b2 vaccinated group, indicating that the vaccine was 100% efficacious in this analysis against severe disease by the CDC definition (95% CI, [88.0,100.0]). Twenty-one severe cases, as defined by the FDA, were observed in the placebo group versus one case in the BNT162b2 vaccinated group, indicating 95.3% efficacy by the FDA definition (95% CI, [71.0, 99.9]).

Efficacy was generally consistent across age, gender, race and ethnicity demographics, and across participants with a variety of underlying conditions.

A total of 697 cases of COVID-19 were observed in the United States; 647 cases of COVID-19 were observed in the placebo group versus 50 in the vaccine group, indicating vaccine efficacy of 92.6% (95% CI, [90.1, 94.5]).

In South Africa, where the B.1.351 lineage is prevalent and 800 participants were enrolled, nine cases of COVID-19 were observed, all in the placebo group, indicating vaccine efficacy of 100% (95% CI, [53.5, 100.0]). In an exploratory analysis, the nine strains were sequenced and six of the nine were confirmed to be of the B.1.351 lineage. These data support previous results from immunogenicity studies demonstrating that BNT162b2 induced a robust neutralizing antibody response to the B1.351 variant, and although lower than to the wild-type strain, it does not appear to affect the high observed efficacy against this variant.

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 12- to 15-year olds, paving the way for the drugmakers to seek U.S. and European approval to use the shot in this age group within weeks.

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