The big COVID-19 news from Monday is Pfizer’s announcement that its experimental vaccine looks to be highly effective at preventing the disease, with no apparent safety problems ― although, to be clear, that’s all based on the company’s own preliminary data.
The announcement got attention around the world, sending financial markets up on hopes that a proven vaccine would soon be available. And in the U. S., it set off an immediate political controversy as the Trump administration and its critics argued over how much credit, if any, the administration’s “Warp Speed” initiative deserves for the apparent advance.
Experts, meanwhile, were quick to sound cautionary notes, including one from Pfizer itself. The findings, which come from “phase 3” trials, have not yet gotten an outside peer review.
Even if the vaccine really works as well as the preliminary Pfizer data suggests, and even if similar vaccines also in development soon show similar results, manufacturing and then distributing them will require a massive, unprecedented effort.
Still, infectious disease specialists and other experts expressed palpable excitement at the news that, so far, the vaccine has proven 90% effective. That is a lot higher than most had expected from the first-generation COVID-19 vaccines. If that number holds up and if the vaccine proves safe ― two very big ifs ― then it could be a major step toward controlling the pandemic.
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