Pfizer Inc has said that its experimental COVID-19 vaccine is more than 90% effective, a major victory in the fight against a pandemic that has killed more than a million people, battered the world's economy and upended daily life.
Pfizer and German partner BioNTech SE are the first drugmakers to release successful data from a large-scale clinical trial of a coronavirus vaccine. The companies said they have so far found no serious safety concerns and expect to seek U.S. authorisation this month for emergency use of the vaccine.
The Right Target
Health experts said Pfizer's results were positive for all COVID-19 vaccines currently in development since they show the shots are going after the right target and are a proof of concept that the disease can be halted with vaccination.
"Today is a great day for science and humanity," Albert Bourla, Pfizer's chairman and chief executive, said.
"We are reaching this critical milestone in our vaccine development program at a time when the world needs it most with infection rates setting new records, hospitals nearing over-capacity and economies struggling to reopen."
If Pfizer's vaccine is authorised, the number of doses will initially be limited and many questions remain, including how long the vaccine will provide protection.
BioNTech Chief Executive Ugur Sahin told Reuters he was optimistic the immunisation effect of the vaccine would last for a year although that was not certain yet.
"This news made me smile from ear to ear. It is a relief to see such positive results on this vaccine and bodes well for COVID-19 vaccines in general," said Peter Horby, professor of emerging infectious diseases at the University of Oxford.
The prospect of a vaccine electrified world markets with S&P 500 futures hitting a record high and tourism and travel shares surging.
Shares of companies that have benefited from pandemic-related lockdowns dropped including conferencing platform Zoom Video Communications which was down 12% in premarket trading.
Pfizer shares were indicated 14.2% higher in pre-market trading in New York, while BioNTech's stock was up nearly 23% in Frankfurt.
"Light at the end of the tunnel. Let's just hope the vaccine deniers won't get in the way, but 2021 just got a lot brighter," said Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at Markets.com
Shares of other vaccine developers in the final stage of testing also rose with Johnson & Johnson up 4% in pre-market trading and Moderna 7.4% stronger. Britain's AstraZeneca was down 0.5%.
"The efficacy data are really impressive. This is better than most of us anticipated," said William Schaffner, infectious diseases expert at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tennessee. "The study isn't completed yet, but nonetheless the data look very solid."
'Shot Of Adrenaline'
According to Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, “Pfizer’s Covid-19 vaccine news has acted like a shot of adrenaline for the markets, triggering one of the biggest single day movements in global equities for a long time. A successful vaccine has greater significance than Joe Biden winning the US election as it would effectively pave the way to restarting economic growth globally.
“Investors are taking this to be game-changing news judging by how they are bidding up shares in large parts of the market.
“In particular, all the stocks that were badly sold off this year are now among the biggest risers of the day as investors assume the vaccine will be deployed successfully and there is now a greater chance of earnings recovery in the short to medium term."