With news yesterday that Pfizer Inc and BioNTech SE’s COVID vaccine candidate was found to be more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19 in participants, industry experts have been responding and looking at the next steps ahead.
It is already clear that primary care will be essential to the vaccine programme and will need ongoing support to achieve positive results. Responding to NHS England and NHS Improvement’s letter to general practice and CCGs about preparations for a COVID-19 vaccination programme, Ruth Rankine, director of the PCN Network at the NHS Confederation, said:
“We are pleased that NHS England and NHS Improvement has recognised the critical role that primary care has to play in the roll-out of the new COVID-19 vaccine, in particular the ability of general practice to operate at scale through primary care networks (PCNs).
“We need to see the detailed specification but are acutely conscious of the tight timescales practices and PCNs will have to consider and respond. This will be complex to plan and operationalise and we welcome the requirement for clinical commissioning groups to support primary care to meet the requirements set out.
“Delivery of a vaccination programme on this scale from scratch means business as usual is not feasible so public expectations will need to be managed at a national level.”
Kate Shaw, CEO of Innovative Trials, a clinical trials patient recruitment company, welcomes the early data and says one of the trial’s biggest achievements is ensuring that nearly half of all global participants have racially or ethnically diverse backgrounds – something often missing in medical research.
Shaw said: “COVID-19 is proving to be a devastating illness for so many, so these initial results are extremely exciting. With black Asian and minority ethnic communities being disproportionately affected by COVID-19, I particularly applaud Pfizer and BioNTech for focusing on diversity when recruiting patients into this trial. It’s an issue the industry has struggled with for years, but this proves that involving diverse populations in research is achievable. We must ensure this remains a focus for the entire life sciences sector so that we can ensure research is truly representative and treatments are effective for all.”
Jaylen Mammadova, Global Sector Lead at Third Bridge, a global primary research firm, said about the news: “This is a stepping stone vaccine towards a more normal world but it will not be a gamechanger for Pfizer’s bottom line. This is a first-generation vaccine that can help policymakers swing our lives back towards normal but it should be overtaken by more effective and durable second and third-generation vaccines in 2021.
“We anticipate initial market uptake should there be no safety issues. However, the idea of this being the final silver bullet for COVID-19 may be mistaken. Durability, or how long immunity lasts in vaccine recipients, is a concern with mRNA-based vaccines like Pfizer’s, so we need to be very cautious of the 90% effectiveness rate we’re hearing about. There is also a question mark around whether Pfizer’s vaccine will be as effective amongst the elderly population.”