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.
Stock markets reacted positively to today’s news while US president-elect Joe Biden and his predecessor Donald Trump have both welcomed the breakthrough.
But not to be outdone, Russia’s health ministry claimed its own product was equally effective, citing data collected from vaccinations of the public.
‘We are responsible for monitoring the effectiveness of the Sputnik V vaccine among citizens who have received it as part of the mass vaccination programme,’ said Oksana Drapkina, the head of an official research institute.
‘Based on our observations, it is also more than 90 per cent. The appearance of another effective vaccine – this is good news for everyone,’ Drapkina said.
Vladimir Putin (pictured) announced in August that Russia had registered the world’s first coronavirus vaccine, prompting criticism from scientists
Moscow’s so-called Sputnik V jab (pictured) was approved in August before human trials were complete, and today’s news from Pfizer has widely been seen as the first robust sign of an effective vaccine
STOCK MARKETS SURGE ON VACCINE HOPES
Global stock markets surged on hopes of an end to the coronavirus crisis today after the vaccine news broke.
In the US, where markets were already on a high after the election finally delivered a clear result, the Dow and the S&P hit new records after opening up 5.3 per cent and 3.6 per cent.
Pfizer shares, listed in New York, saw a bump of more than 8 per cent.
However, some companies that have fared well during the pandemic – such as Zoom – saw their values fall.
The FTSE 100 index was up more than 5.5 per cent on the successful trials.
The UK’s FTSE index surged by more than five per cent on the news, taking it to the highest level since August
That put it at the highest level since mid-August, while other markets around the world also recorded sharp gains.
Airline group IAG was up 35 per cent, while Rolls Royce saw a 30 per cent spike.
Cinema and hotel chains also received a massive boost as investors digested the optimistic signs.
In Europe, France’s CAC 40 jumped 5.6 per cent to 5,239, while Germany’s DAX surged 5.1 per cent to 13,112.
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.
Speaking in August, one scientist blasted Putin’s move as ‘unethical’ because an ‘improperly tested vaccine’ could have ‘disastrous’ effects on public health, while others warned that there was ‘no data’ to tell whether the Russian vaccine is effective.
Another expert warned that ‘the damage from release of any vaccine that was less than safe and effective would exacerbate our current problems insurmountably’.
The Kremlin and its state-controlled media have touted Russian scientists as global pioneers and turned the vaccine race into a matter of national prestige – leading to fears that safety could be compromised for the sake of Russia’s image.
Britain, the US and Canada claimed during the summer that Russia had tried to hack into Western vaccine research in its quest to win the race.
Russia is currently testing the vaccine on 40,000 people in Moscow in its own Phase III trials.
Alexander Gintsburg, director of Moscow’s Gamaleya Institute which developed the Russian vaccine candidate, said he welcomed the Pfizer news.
‘In the near future we expect to publish interim results of the post-registration trial of the vaccine Sputnik V, the so-called Phase III trials. I am sure that its effectiveness level will also be high,’ he said.
Today’s comments from Russia came after Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla said the world was a ‘significant step closer’ to a breakthrough following the Phase III results.
Pfizer and German firm BioNTech said they expect to supply up to 50million vaccine doses globally in 2020, and up to 1.3billion in 2021.
While the Pfizer-BioNTech trial has yet to be peer-reviewed by experts, scientists reacted with cautious optimism to the results.
Michael Head, senior research fellow in global health at the University of Southampton, called it an ‘excellent result for a first generation vaccine’.
Pfizer and BioNTech have produced one of the world’s leading candidates for a coronavirus vaccine, and have become the first to report early results from their final study
Peter Horby, professor of emerging infectious diseases and global health in the Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford, said Pfizer’s announcement ‘feels to me like a watershed moment’ in the pandemic.
European stock markets and oil prices jumped on the announcement.
US president-elect Joe Biden said it was ‘excellent news’, indicating that the end of the pandemic may be ‘months away’ but warning that masks and other health measures were still needed for the time being.
Outgoing president Donald Trump, whose handling of the pandemic has been blamed in part for his election defeat, described the breakthrough as ‘great news’.
Top US pandemic expert Anthony Fauci, who has clashed with Trump at times, said the result was ‘extraordinary’.
Earlier this year, Fauci said he would be happy with a Covid-19 vaccine that was 60 per cent effective.
Scientists have warned for months that any Covid-19 shot may be only as good as flu vaccines, which are about 50 per cent effective and require yearly shots.
Pictured is the first patient to have 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
A spokesman for Britain’s prime minister Boris Johnson said that the UK has procured 40million doses, with 10million set to be available by year’s end.
The vaccine has been tested on 43,500 people in six countries and no safety concerns have been raised.
According to preliminary findings, protection in patients from a wide variety of ethnic backgrounds was achieved seven days after the second of two vaccine doses, and 28 days after the first.
The companies said they expect to supply up to 50 million vaccine doses globally in 2020, and up to 1.3 billion in 2021.
Volunteers were not told whether they received the real vaccine or a dummy jab, but the results suggest that almost all the infections counted so far were in the placebo group.
Pfizer plans to continue its study until it records 164 infections among all the volunteers, a number that US regulators have agreed is enough to tell how well the vaccine is working.
The US Food and Drug Administration has made clear that any vaccine must be at least 50 per cent effective.