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Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Hope soars for the globe as - Pfizer and BioNTech claims their jab is 90% effective

The coronavirus has hit another sobering milestone: more than 50 million positive cases worldwide since the pandemic began. Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker reported  50550062 cases globally.  There have been more than 1.2 million deaths from the disease worldwide since the pandemic started. The U.S., with about 4% of the world’s population, represents almost a fifth of all reported cases.

USA has now crossed 1 crore – 10060710 cases with 103657 cases on a single day.  India’s total is 8553657 with 45903 yesterday – France has total of 1790816 but new cases per day is massive 125414 !! .. ..back home, the National Capital, headed by another media rolemodel Arvind Kejriwal is reeling   under the third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of patients under home isolation in Delhi has mounted to 24,723, a rise of 50 per cent in the last two weeks, while the containment zones count has expanded by over 32 per cent in the same period.  The no. of new cases 1 day is massive 7745 more than Maharashtra’s 5585!

To get out of the Corona threat, commoners have been praying that the World invents a vaccine – to us, vaccine would be a pill or a course of pills or an injection – have it – and you are immune to the disease is what we are dreaming !  - are we close to attaining that ? – nearer and conceptually not as simple as we dream them to be !! ~ there is news of vaccine for Covid 19 – a jab  known as a messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine, which uses genetic code from the virus to provoke the immune system. 

Edward Jenner, FRS FRCPE (1749 – 1823) was an English physician and scientist who pioneered the concept of vaccines including creating the smallpox vaccine, the world's first vaccine.  The terms vaccine and vaccination are derived from Variolae vaccinae (smallpox of the cow), the term devised by Jenner to denote cowpox. He used it in 1798 in the long title of his Inquiry into the Variolae vaccinae known as the Cow Pox, in which he described the protective effect of cowpox against smallpox.  Jenner is called "the father of immunology", and his work is said to have "saved more lives than the work of any other human". In Jenner's time, smallpox killed around 10% of the population, with the number as high as 20% in towns and cities where infection spread more easily. In 1821, he was appointed physician extraordinary to King George IV, and was also made mayor of Berkeley and justice of the peace. A member of the Royal Society, in the field of zoology he was the first person to describe the brood parasitism of the cuckoo. In 2002, Jenner was named in the BBC’s list of the 100 Greatest Britons.

Human beings have benefited from vaccines for more than two centuries. Yet the pathway to effective vaccines has been neither neat nor direct.   The global race to find a Covid-19 vaccine took a leap forward today when pharma companies Pfizer and BioNTech claimed their jab is 90 per cent effective. Hopes that the pandemic could come to an end have surged, along with stock markets across the world, as the firms became the first to report results from large-scale clinical trial and hailed today 'a great day for science and humanity'.

It is reported that  UK has already bought 40million doses of the jab and a quarter of them could be ready to go before the end of the year, and cautious scientists admit the results are 'excellent' and 'really impressive' - with one even claiming Britain could be back to normal by spring 2021. Pfizer and German partner BioNTech said that 94 people in a trial of more than 43,000 have so far tested positive for Covid-19, and that over 90 per cent of those did not receive the real vaccine. This suggests the vaccine is 90 per cent effective and that no more than eight out of those 94 people actually received the real jab.

Most of the people who tested positive were in the placebo group, where people are given a fake vaccine so that what happens to them can be compared with those who get the real thing. The companies did not reveal the exact split of how many people had had the vaccine and how many had not.  The results were revealed in a corporate press release, which is not considered transparent enough for independent review, but they will be published in full later this year when the study is more complete.   This phase of the trial will continue until at least 164 participants have tested positive, the researchers said.  It is stated that the  first patient  received the Pfizer vaccine, at the University of Maryland in May this year. Since then, more than 43,000 people have been enrolled in the ground-breaking trial.

The general public will not benefit from the vaccine - if it is approved - for weeks or months to come, but today's results mean there is a ray of hope that the pandemic could end. Coronavirus cannot yet be stopped without a vaccine, and one that prevents infections or at least reduces the risk of death could spell the end of social distancing. Pfizer's vaccine needs to be stored at ultra-low temperatures, which makes trying to ship and distribute the shots a logistical headache. The vaccine must be kept at -70C (-94F) which rules out storing it at most hospitals or pharmacy, where jabs are normally kept and administered. Pfizer's shot will likely need to be stored in laboratories or specialist hospitals. To transport it around the country will also require expensive refrigerated lorries.  The 'cold chain' is a system of storing and transporting vaccines at recommended temperatures from the point of manufacture to the point of administration.

.. .. .. and there is other angle to it too  ~  a major University College London study in late September estimated a fifth of Britons will turn down a potential jab. If crudely extrapolated to the entire country it could mean 13million people refuse to take it. Researchers found a 'concerning level of misinformation around vaccines' which could significantly affect uptake once a Covid-19 vaccine is approved.  A mutated version of coronavirus caught from mink might render Pfizer's vaccine less effective than its touted 90 per cent figure.

Pfizer and BioNTech have said they will try to apply to the Food & Drug Administration in the US for approval within the next month, provided their final results are as positive as today's announcement suggests. This is because Pfizer is an American company, based in New York. BioNTech is a German company so it is likely the same procedure will be followed in the European Union.   Downing Street today said it has ordered 40million doses of the double-dose vaccine, which would be enough to give to 20million people.  It means that, at the absolute most, only 10million Brits will receive the vaccine by Christmas, but the vaccine is given in two shots so this could actually be five million. A further 30million doses would then be produced and sent to Britain next year - the timescale for this is not yet clear. 

It is not the end though ! the researches and the trials would go on and  will likely not end completely for years to come, because the more data scientists have, the more confident they can be about their results. .. .. now read this too.  Russia claimed today that its controversial Covid-19 vaccine is 90 per cent effective - shortly after Pfizer sparked a wave of optimism around the world by giving the same figure for its own vaccine.   Moscow's so-called Sputnik V jab was approved in August before human trials were complete, prompting criticism from scientists, and today's news from Pfizer has widely been seen as the first robust sign of an effective vaccine.  Russian leader Vladimir Putin announced in August that Russia had become the first country to register the vaccine, claiming it had 'passed all the necessary tests'.  Putin said the vaccine offers 'sustainable immunity' against Covid-19 and said his daughter has already been given the jab, with Russia eyeing up mass injections before the end of 2020.  While small trials can show whether a vaccine is likely to be safe, Russia has not released any results from the usually months-long Phase III tests which measure its effectiveness.  By contrast, Pfizer's announcement today is based on results from Phase III trials.

All that offers more hope for the eternal optimist.  

With regards – S. Sampathkumar


Largely excerpted from MailOnline


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