Latest trial results provide indications that vaccination can protect against the virus

News that a Covid-19 vaccine jointly developed by Pfizer and BioNTech is said to be '90% effective' in ongoing Phase 3 trials was widely welcomed today. Dr Anne Moore is a Senior Lecturer in Biochemistry and Cell Biology at UCC and she joined Bryan Dobson on RTÉ Radio 1's News At One to discuss the story

Moore initially explained what's involved in Phase 3 trials. "The Phase 3 trial is where we really look to see if the vaccine can work, as in it protects people against infection or disease", she said. "We look at that in thousands of people so see if it really does provide protection and we also look at the safety signals in such a big popuation of people. This trial took place in over 40,000 people, both those who got the vaccine and those who got a placebo."

What has been reported today are results from an interim analysis. "They've looked very early on at only a small cohort of people who have actually been diagnosed as Covid positive", said Moore. "This is only looking at 94 individuals and not the full 44,000, which would be very difficult to do in such a short space of time.

"In those 94 cases, though, what they can say is that there was 90% fewer cases in the vaccinated population. While it is an interim analysis, it is very positive news because it shows there are fewer cases when you are vaccinated. This is seven days after the second vaccination of these individuals so we do need to see how long that can protect for as well. But it is very positive and significant: it is the first breakthrough we have that a vaccination can protect."

What happens next? "According to rules which have been laid down by regulators in the US, it was decided upfront that, when there was a small interim analysis, Pzifer would go ahead and look at safety in all of their volunteers to make sure there are no safety signals coming out.

"Based on the results which Pzifer have presented to the FDA today, they will be going for what's called an emergency use authorisation. They will get a licence for this vaccination, providing there is no major health or safety signals - and so far, based on their press release at least and we need to see a lot more detail, there appears to be no adverse effects. If there aren't for a further two months, then there will be a vaccine licence for Covid-19 by the end of the year. They have 50 million doses ready to go and a million doses for next year. It's a really positive breakthrough.

"There are at least half a dozen other vaccines which are on the same track so hopefully, we will have multiple vaccines which will be licensed. The fact that one vaccine will provide very early stage protection gives us a lot of optimism that other vaccines will be effective."

Hear the interview in full below

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