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Pfizer Vaccine Breakthrough: Weighing The Prospects Vs Challenges For Kiwi Land

Summary

  • Drug-makers Pfizer and BioNTech SE have reported 90% efficacy of their COVID-19 vaccine candidate in late-stage clinical trials.
  • While about a dozen vaccine candidates are in the final stages of testing currently, Pfizer is the first one to report late-stage trial results.
  • Following Pfizer’s vaccine trial success, the NZ government is optimistic over the availability of COVID-19 vaccine in Kiwi Land by March 2021 quarter.
  • However, Pfizer’s vaccine continues to pose significant temperature, distribution and logistics challenges for Kiwi Land and rest of the countries.
  • The NZ government is expected to explore other vaccine options besides Pfizer that could deliver something more effective and cheaper at a later date.

The global race to formulate a COVID-19 vaccine has kept healthcare companies in the limelight over the past several months. Putting the pedal to the metal, drug-makers Pfizer and BioNTech SE have claimed a major breakthrough in the vaccine sprint, lifting hopes for the end of the pandemic.

US-based pharma giant Pfizer Inc and Germany’s BioNTech have recently reported 90% efficacy of their COVID-19 vaccine candidate in late-stage clinical trials. Tested in six countries on over 43,000 people, their experimental vaccine exhibited no safety concerns in preliminary results from the Phase-3 trial.

While about a dozen vaccine candidates are in the final stages of testing currently, Pfizer is the first one to report late-stage trial results. The Company’s vaccine results are being considered as a big win in the war against the virus that has claimed more than 1 million lives and hammered the global economy.

But what does Pfizer’s vaccine trial success mean for Kiwi Land in particular?

While New Zealand has managed success in containing the second wave of infection, the nation is eagerly awaiting a COVID-19 vaccine rollout akin to other countries. In fact, Kiwi Land is a part of a global coalition of nations collaborating to seek a coronavirus vaccine at the earliest possible time.

With Pfizer’s vaccine candidate providing compelling evidence of its effectiveness against COVID-19, it becomes imperative to weigh the availability prospects and challenges of this vaccine breakthrough for NZ.

Prospects

Following Pfizer’s vaccine trial success, the NZ government is optimistic over the availability of COVID-19 vaccine in Kiwi Land by March 2021 quarter. To recall, the NZ government entered into a deal with BioNTech and Pfizer in October this year to secure 1.5 million doses of their vaccine for 750k New Zealanders.

Pfizer’s deal has been signed under the government’s COVID-19 vaccine strategy, which aims to ensure the nation’s access to effective and safe vaccine to execute its preferred immunisation programme as quickly as possible.

The availability of Pfizer’s vaccine in NZ is subject to the successful completion of all clinical trials and vaccine’s regulatory approval by Medsafe. The government anticipates some doses of vaccine to be available in early 2021, provided Medsafe approves vaccine usage in Kiwi Land.

Challenges

Pfizer’s vaccine trial results have renewed hopes that the battle against the deadly virus can be won in the near future. However, the vaccine continues to pose significant temperature, distribution and logistics challenges for Kiwi Land and rest of the countries.

Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine presages major cold chain challenge as it needs to be stored at an extremely low temperature of minus 70 degrees Celsius. While the NZ government is seeking available cold chain technologies to potentially stimulate the import of vaccine, the temperature requirement can spoil a lot of vaccine in case of cold storage shortages.

This temperature requirement can further trigger logistics challenges as the vaccine needs to be kept in ultra-cool temperature even during transportation to prevent damage. It requires logistics companies to house several deep freezers for the smooth execution of NZ’s vaccine distribution plans.

Besides these challenges, uncertainty looms over the duration of the protective effect of Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine that is likely to be available by next year. Experts believe it is hard to ascertain the persistence of the protective effect until a few years down the road.

Given the existing challenges, the NZ government is expected to explore other vaccine options besides Pfizer that could deliver something more effective and cheaper at a later date. Towards this end, the government is considering several other advance purchase agreements with different pharmaceutical companies developing COVID-19 vaccine.

Bottomline

While Pfizer vaccine’s 90% effectiveness in late-stage trials is a welcome news for Kiwi Land, there is still some time before we celebrate this success. Pfizer’s Phase 3 trials are still underway, and it is still unclear whether individuals who received the vaccine contracted COVID-19 subsequently or not.

Besides, the world is closely eyeing updates on vaccine candidates of other drug players, including AstraZeneca-Oxford University, Johnson and Johnson and Bharat Biotech, which are at equally advanced stages of late-stage trials.

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