‘Drug companies are notorious for exaggerating and skewing their early findings in public announcements to grab attention and boost investor interest’.
– Julia Belluz writing for explain-the-news website Vox
The Pfizer-Biontech vaccine candidate BNT162b2 got a ton of press here in the US today, and boosted the stock market indexes. Is the reported 90% efficacy for real? (The Phase III trial is still a tiny population vs. the 100s of millions of humans that will get the vaccine). And does 90% mean 90% of vaccinated persons will get no symptoms? Mild symptoms? Or could vaccinated people still get quite sick, but it will cut the death rate by 90%? Will it work for young people as well as old people? We don’t any of this yet.
Then there is the matter of transporting and storing the vaccine at -80°C (-112°F) in a special freezer with dry ice, and making sure two doses, three weeks apart, are given to the patient. (This is after the patient has been convinced to get the vaccine. Will Americans trust the CDC and the FDA that say ‘get the vaccine’ after their disastrous, incoherent Covid-19 messaging, and political interference through all of 2020?).
The Pfizer-Biontech vaccine uses brand-new technology: lipid nanoparticles — fat bubbles — that surround a strip of genetic material called messenger RNA. Cells in the human body react to the messenger RNA strands by running a ribosomes over it. Ribosomes are macromolecular machines, found within all living cells, that manufacture proteins. The resulting proteins built from the mRNA strands are now the same as the ‘spike’ proteins that sit on the surface of a real SARS-CoV-2 virus. The human body detects these spike proteins, sees them as invaders and develop antibodies for the spike proteins. If the real SARS-CoV-2 virus now enters the body, the antibodies are at the ready to neutralize them and prevent them from replicating. [Graphic tweeted by Dr. Ali Nouri @AliNouriPhD on Twitter]
P.S. The leading vaccine candidates are of three kinds:
a. killed Sars-CoV-2 virus;
b. a hybrid, with spike protein bolted on to a completely different kind of live virus; and
c. messenger RNA (such as described above) that carries instructions to human cells to make spike proteins.