As more results and data pour in on Pfizer and BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine trials some major questions are coming up. One of the most significant ones is: How many times will people have to take the COVID-19 vaccine? Once a year? More than that?
What we know about the vaccine so far
The country—which was hit pretty hard by outbreaks this summer— reportedly purchased 40 million doses from the pharmaceutical duo in their quest to inoculate 20 million citizens throughout 2021.
Meanwhile, the U.S Food and Drug and Administration is expected to grant emergency authorization for the very same vaccine sometime next week.
Pfizer has produced enough safety data to warrant this outcome, with some medical experts calling their candidate one of the most significant medical breakthroughs in recent memory. Patients will need to receive two doses at varying intervals in order to optimize their defense against the novel coronavirus (SARS-CoV-2).
Although clinical trials suggest that these doses evidence a 95% efficacy rate, it is not entirely clear how long one remains protected after receiving them.
This is further complicated by the fact that at least two other vaccine candidates are on their way to the general public. Both appear to be successful but maybe not in the same way as each other.
We already know that Pfizer and Biotech’s candidate is acutely sensitive to temperature. It’s reported that initial batches need to be stored at -70° C (-94° F) in order to remain preserved.
To honor these criteria, Pfizer intends to ship orders in thermal containers that can maintain the required temperatures for up to 15 days with dry ice.
We don’t know if any of these factors impact the longevity of immunity. To that point, we can safely assume that individual characteristics and health status may have some part to play in the equation.
“If we can come through the huge challenge of efficient, mass distribution and vaccination with a high level of uptake ― and none of these is a sure thing ― the next question will be some large scale monitoring to understand the stability of immunity,” Daniel Altmann, a professor from the department of immunology and inflammation at Imperial College London explained in a statement earlier today.
“This won’t be a simple one-size-fits-all answer. Durability may be different with age, obesity, prior infection, genetics. So we need to keep checking. We’ll then know if we need to re-immunize at one year, two years, etc.”
We also have to consider SAR-CoV-2’s sophisticated pathology. The virus staffing our pandemic is an RNA virus, which means it mutates relatively quickly.
In the case of mass-immune selection, it’s important that vaccinologists keep pace with it as the virus attempts to bypass clinical interventions with updated variants.
“Study participants will continue to be monitored for long-term protection and safety for an additional two years after their second dose,” an official from Pfizer concluded.
“Pfizer and BioNTech plan to submit the full efficacy and safety data from our Phase 3 trial for peer-review in a scientific journal once the data is complete and analyzed.”