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Pfizer says vaccine is 95% effective, it will seek clearance soon

Linda A. Johnson and Frank Jordans
The Associated Press

Pfizer said Wednesday that new test results show its coronavirus vaccine is 95% effective, is safe and also protects older people most at risk of dying — the last data needed to seek emergency use of limited shot supplies as the catastrophic outbreak worsens across the globe.

The announcement from Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, just a week after they revealed the first promising preliminary results, comes as the team is preparing within days to formally ask U.S. regulators to allow emergency use of the vaccine.

They also have begun “rolling submissions” for the vaccine with regulators in Europe, the U.K. and Canada and soon will add this new data.

Pfizer and BioNTech had initially estimated the vaccine was more than 90% effective after 94 infections had been counted in a study that included 44,000 people. With the new announcement, the company now has accumulated 170 infections in the study — and said only eight of them occurred in volunteers who got the actual vaccine rather than a dummy shot. One of those eight developed severe disease, the company said.

“This is an extraordinarily strong protection,” Dr. Ugur Sahin, BioNTech’s CEO and co-founder, said.

Questions linger: The companies have not yet released detailed data on its study, and results have not been analyzed by independent experts. Also still to be determined are important questions such as how long protection lasts and whether people might need boosters.

Pfizer and BioNTech said the vaccine was more than 94% effective in adults over age 65, though it is not clear exactly how that was determined with only eight infections in the vaccinated group to analyze and no breakdown provided of those people’s ages.

Sahin said there were enough older adults enrolled in the study and among the placebo recipients who became infected that he is con­fident “this vaccine

appears to work in the higher-risk popula-tion.”

Earlier this week, Moderna Inc. announced that its experimental vaccine appears to be 94.5% effective after an interim analysis of its late-stage study.

Similar results from two vaccines both made with a brand-new technology — using a snippet of the genetic code of the coronavirus to train the body to recognize if the real virus comes along — likely will add to experts’ reassurance about the novel approach.