COVID-19 vaccine updates: Pfizer passes big test; J&J gets US FDA nod

Pfizer was 92 per cent effective at preventing severe disease after two shots

pfizer-vaccine-covid-19-vaccine-reuters Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine | Reuters

A real-world test of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine in more than half a million people confirmed that it is very effective at preventing serious illness or death, even after one dose. The results published today, from a mass vaccination campaign in Israel, give strong reassurance that the benefits seen in smaller, limited testing persisted when the vaccine was used much more widely in a general population with various ages and health conditions. 

The vaccine was 92 per cent effective at preventing severe disease after two shots and 62 per cent after one. Its estimated effectiveness for preventing death was 72 per cent two to three weeks after the first shot, a rate that may improve as immunity builds over time. It seemed as effective in people over 70 as in younger people. 

Johnson & Johnson gets US FDA nod

Johnson & Johnson's single-dose vaccine offers strong protection against severe COVID-19, according to an analysis released by US regulators that sets the stage for a final decision on a new and easier-to-use shot to help tame the pandemic.

The long-anticipated shot could offer the nation a third vaccine option and help speed vaccinations by requiring just one dose instead of two. Food and Drug Administration scientists on Wednesday confirmed that overall the vaccine is about 66 per cent effective at preventing moderate to severe COVID-19, and about 85 per cent effective against the most serious illness. The agency also said J&J's shot is safe.

The analysis is just one step in the FDA's evaluation. On Friday, the agency's independent advisers will debate if the evidence is strong enough to recommend the shot. With that advice, the FDA is expected to make a final decision within days.

The COVID-19 death toll in the US topped 500,000 this week, and the vaccination drive has been slower than hoped, hampered by logistical and weather delays. So far, about 44.5 million Americans have received at least one dose of vaccine made by Pfizer or Moderna, and nearly 20 million of them have received the second dose required for full protection.

Tests showed the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines were 95 per cent effective at protection against symptomatic COVID-19.

China has two more vaccines in line

China is moving ahead with two more COVID-19 vaccines in the regulatory process, one from state-owned company Sinopharm and another from a private company CanSino. Both vaccines have been submitted to regulators for approval this week. CanSino said that Chinese regulators are reviewing its application for its COVID-19 vaccine, in a stock filing on Wednesday.

Sinopharm's subsidiary the Wuhan Institute of Biological Products announced on Wednesday that it had submitted an application on Sunday and that regulators were reviewing it.

China already has approved two vaccines that it has been using in a mass immunisation campaign. One of them is also from Sinopharm, but it was developed by its Beijing subsidiary. The other is the Sinovac vaccine.

The Wuhan shot from Sinopharm is 72.51 per cent effective, the company said. Both shots from Sinopharm rely on inactivated viruses, a traditional technology.

CanSino's vaccine is a one-dose shot that relies on a harmless common cold virus, called an adenovirus, to deliver the spike gene of the virus into the body. The technology is similar to both Astrazeneca and Johnson & Johnson's vaccines, which rely on different adenoviruses.

-Inputs from PTI