Health & Fitness

Crucial Covid vaccine knowledge, which Pfizer expects this week, is unlikely to be in earlier than the US election


A health worker injects a person during clinical trials for a Covid-19 vaccine at the Research Centers of America in Hollywood, Florida.

Eva Marie Uzcategui | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Important coronavirus vaccine data expected by Pfizer this week is unlikely to be available before the November 3rd US election.

On a call to investors on Tuesday, Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said the company didn't expect an announcement about its study until about a week after the data and safety monitoring panel reviewed the Phase 3 vaccine study. The board, which will assess whether its study with German drug maker BioNTech was successful, has not yet conducted a preliminary efficacy analysis, Pfizer said.

"In the event of a final report … we will inform the public as soon as we have completed the necessary administrative work which we estimate will be completed within a week of our knowledge," Bourla said on the conference call.

"Let's all be patient," he added. "I know how much the stress increases. I know how much the vaccine is needed for the world."

The Phase 3 trials are a critical final step in getting the vaccines approved for distribution. Three other US-backed candidates are in phase three: Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson. Pfizer is expected to file an emergency clearance with the Food and Drug Administration next month.

The board will only conduct its analysis after 32 cases of Covid-19 have been diagnosed in Pfizer's phase three study. The board might recommend stopping the study if the vaccine is found to be at least 77% effective, which means that the risk of developing Covid can be reduced by 77%.

Since early September, Bourla has repeatedly stated that the company could have data on late-stage vaccination attempts as early as October. The schedule aroused concerns and skepticism from infectious disease experts and scientists, who also feared that the process could be influenced by politics, not science. President Donald Trump has insisted that a Covid-19 vaccine could be ready before election day.

Earlier in the day, Pfizer said it included more than 42,000 volunteers in the late stages of the process. It is said that nearly 36,000 of the volunteers have already received the second of their two doses of Covid-19 vaccine. In September, Pfizer expanded the registration of its phase three study from the original target of up to 30,000 to up to 44,000 volunteers.

The vaccine contains genetic material called messenger RNA, or mRNA, which scientists hope will stimulate the immune system to fight the virus.

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Katherine Clark