A tired nation woke up from an eventful weekend to the headline: “Pfizer’s Early Data Shows Vaccine Is More Than 90% Effective.” The pharmaceutical company has been working with German drugmaker BioNTech on a vaccine for COVID-19 that the New York Times describes as “robustly effective.” If the 90 percent figure holds, that “would put it on par with highly effective childhood vaccines for diseases such as measles. No serious safety concerns have been observed.” Pfizer will ask the Food and Drug Administration for “emergency authorization” of the vaccine this month; if it’s successful, “it will have manufactured enough doses to immunize 15 to 20 million people.”
Now there’s still a long way to go before concert venues are at capacity again (as the Times notes, “It is not conclusive evidence that the vaccine is safe and effective, and the initial finding of more than 90 percent efficacy could change as the trial goes on”), and god only knows how much the vaccine is going to cost. But it’s still a promising update on a potential return to normalcy. When alerted about the news, Joe Biden, who officially won the U.S. presidential election over the weekend, said, “Last night, my public health advisors were informed of this excellent news. I congratulate the brilliant women and men who helped produce this breakthrough and to give us such cause for hope.”
NEW: @JoeBiden says he was informed of Pfizer vaccine development last night. "I congratulate the brilliant women and men who helped produce this breakthrough and to give us such cause for hope."
— Mike Memoli (@mikememoli) November 9, 2020
At the same time, it is also important to understand that the end of the battle against COVID-19 is still months away. This news follows a previously announced timeline by industry officials that forecast vaccine approval by late November. Even if that is achieved, and some Americans are vaccinated later this year, it will be many more months before there is widespread vaccination in this country.
This is why the head of the CDC warned this fall that for the foreseeable future, a mask remains a more potent weapon against the virus than the vaccine. Today’s news does not change this urgent reality. Americans will have to rely on masking, distancing, contact tracing, hand washing, and other measures to keep themselves safe well into next year. Today’s news is great news, but it doesn’t change that fact.
America is still losing over 1,000 people a day from COVID-19, and that number is rising — and will continue to get worse unless we make progress on masking and other immediate actions. That is the reality for now, and for the next few months. Today’s announcement promises the chance to change that next year, but the tasks before us now remain the same.
Here’s how Donald Trump responded, not with concern but about the stock market:
STOCK MARKET UP BIG, VACCINE COMING SOON. REPORT 90% EFFECTIVE. SUCH GREAT NEWS!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 9, 2020
If Biden’s statement makes him “sleepy,” well, sign us up for a four-year nap.
VP Pence credits President Trump’s efforts but Pfizer was not a part of Operation Warp Speed.
Pfizer senior VP & head of vaccine development Dr. Kathrin Jansen told NYT: “We were never part of the Warp Speed. We have never taken any money from the US government, or from anyone” https://t.co/9i5w261irH
— Amanda Golden (@amandawgolden) November 9, 2020
(Via New York Times)