Coronavirus: Vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech shows positive results

A drug developed by the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and a German biotech company BioNTech has shown potential as a vaccine against the COVID-19 virus, according to the companies.

The drug is among 17 being tested on humans as trials continue to find a vaccine against the novel coronavirus. More than 10.5 million people have been infected worldwide, with 500,000 dying from the virus.

BioNTech tested the drug BNT162b1 on 24 volunteers, finding that they had all developed higher levels of COVID-19 antibodies than had people infected with the disease but who had not been given a potential vaccine.

The results of the study were reported Wednesday in a paper released on MedRXiv, a preprint server, meaning it has not yet been peer-reviewed or published in a journal.

Forty-five volunteers were randomly assigned to get one of three doses of the vaccine or placebo. The first dose of the drug was well-tolerated, BioNTech officials said. The second, higher dose of the medicine was followed by a fever that did not last long in three of the four participants who took the second shot. Both doses were administered via two injections within three weeks of one another.

A third dose tested at a higher concentration in a separate group was not repeated because of pain reported at the injection site.

“We still have a ways to go and we’re testing other candidates as well,” said Philip Dormitzer, the chief scientific officer for viral vaccines at Pfizer’s research laboratories. “However, what we can say at this point is there is a viable candidate based on immunogenicity and early tolerability safety data.”

According to Stat News, the vaccine generated neutralizing antibodies against COVID-19, or antibodies that prevent the virus from functioning. The drug produced neutralizing antibodies at a level of 1.8 to 2.8 times those found in patients who had recovered from the virus.

The drug will be given to a larger study to show that those receiving the vaccines are at least 50% less likely to become infected. Those studies are expected to begin this summer, mostly in the United States. Pfizer is testing four different versions of the vaccine, but only one will advance to larger studies.