The Covid-19 vaccine being developed by Pfizer has been found to be 94% effective in preventing infection in older adults aged over 65, as phase 3 trials are concluded.
The breakthrough news comes as interim findings had suggested a 90% efficacy rate across trial participants as a whole, but the final results have increased this to 95%.
The UK has ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer Covid vaccine, of which 10 million doses are expected to be available before the end of the year.
Alongside the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine – which has yet to report phase 3 trial results – it is one of two vaccines which GP in England may begin to deliver this year as part of the Covid vaccine enhanced service.
Pfizer’s phase 3 trial findings concluded that it was ‘95% effective against COVID-19 beginning 28 days after the first dose’. The trial evaluated 170 confirmed cases of Covid-19, with ‘162 observed in the placebo group versus eight in the vaccine group’.
The trial also found that ‘efficacy was consistent across age, gender, race and ethnicity demographics’; with ‘observed efficacy in adults over 65 years of age’ at ‘over 94%’.
The data also demonstrated that the vaccine was ‘well tolerated across all populations’, amid 43,000 trial participants, with ‘no serious safety concerns observed’.
The only ‘adverse event’ which was ‘greater than 2% in frequency’ was fatigue – experienced by 3.8% of vaccine recipients – and a headache, which 2% experienced.
Pfizer and vaccine development partner BioNTech said they intend to apply for emergency licensing of the vaccine in the US ‘within days’, while also sharing data with regulatory agencies ‘across the globe’.
In the UK, the Government has passed new legislation which means that the MHRA can issue a temporary licence for a Covid vaccine to be rolled out as soon as it is deemed safe and effective.
There have been logistical concerns around Pfizer’s vaccine requiring ultra-low storage temperatures of below -70C.
However NHS England has stated that practices must have fridge capacity to store vaccine at +2-8C, suggesting GPs may not have to store the vaccine while it remains frozen.
It comes as an exclusive Pulse survey of PCN leads in England found that around 5% will not be signing up to the Covid vaccination enhanced service contract, which some local GP leaders have warned come with ‘impossible’ requirements.
In Scotland, health boards will take the lead on Covid vaccinations, while in Wales health boards and trusts will be involved. Meanwhile, Northern Irish GPs expect a similar programme to that in England, although discussions remain ongoing.