Pfizer says early data shows its COVID-19 test vaccine is more than 90% effective

The pharmaceutical company Pfizer announced Monday early data shows its candidate vaccine is more than 90% effective in preventing infection in volunteers who had not previously been exposed to the virus.

Microbiologist and immunologist Dr. Amber Schmidtke, PhD, says the results, released in a press release put out by the company, are promising.

"It's really exciting," Schmidtke says.  "I think that getting something that is 90% effective is probably better than we could have hoped for."

With COVID-19 infections surging, and health officials warning the US could be headed into the most difficult months yet of the pandemic, Schmidtke says the numbers could still change as the clinical trial wraps up.

Pfizer is already producing millions of doses of the test vaccine, as it awaits the final data needed to qualify for an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), which could come as soon as the end of the month.

"We were cautiously hoping for a 60% to 70% effective vaccine," Schmidtke says.  "Something more in line with the seasonal influenza vaccine.  We already know we have trouble with people getting their flu shot.  But, seeing something with 90% effectiveness, that's great news.  I think that's really going to boost confidence in the vaccine."

The Pfizer announcement comes as Georgians are getting a first look at the Georgia Department of Public Health's approved COVID-19 Vaccine Draft Plan, submitted to the CDC last month. 

The 49-page document details how the vaccine, which will be in very short supply early on, will be distributed.

Under the draft plan, the first doses will go to:

  • Healthcare personnel who are likely to be exposed to or treat people with COVID-19
  • First Responders
  • People at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19, which includes people with underlying medical conditions and those age 60 and older.
  • Other essential workers

"What's absolutely vital is that we get our healthcare workers and our first responders vaccinated first," Schmidtke says.  "Because they're the ones that are taking care of the rest of us."

The plan says Georgia will decide the amount of vaccine given to each of the state's18 public health districts COVID-19 vaccination providers based on population density, level of disease endemic to each area, and numbers of priority populations.

Schmidtke says getting the vaccine to rural Georgia will be logistically challenging.

The vaccine requires very cold storage, at minus 80 degrees Celsius, in storage units many smaller healthcare facilities may not have.  

Those who wish to receive the vaccine will likely need two shots delivered about a month apart. Each Public Health Mass Vaccination Clinic will get consent for every patient before vaccination and share a Vaccine Information Statement docuement before administering the vaccine.

Georgia is planning on giving out vaccine record cards and sending follow up text messages to help recipients remember when they are due for their second injections.

Additionally, each district or county will have agreements with the local police department to help secure vaccines and maintain order at mass vaccination sites