When you hear that a new vaccine for COVID-19 is more than 90% effective, it sounds awesome! When you hear that the results are just for the first 94 people in the trial, it sounds, well, less awesome.
The study includes 44,000 volunteers, so we’ll learn a lot as more people have experience with the vaccine.
The study called for interim analysis after 32 people developed the disease, but the company changed the study and ended up with data on 94 people who had contracted the virus.
John Moore, a professor of microbiology and immunology at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, said:
“It gives you more power and more confidence. When you triple the numbers and you get a large difference between them, it’s much more likely to be real.”
That’s great, but we still don’t know if it can prevent those who catch the disease from getting severe cases or complications, how long protection will last, and how well or poorly it works in the most vulnerable populations, like the elderly.
The company hasn’t released safety data, and the current study hasn’t been peer reviewed.
The most interesting tidbit is that the vaccine might not stop the subjects from getting the disease, but instead might stop them from getting a bad case of the virus. That’s great for the person who is immunized, but it means that the person can still carry and transmit the disease to others.
Lawrence Young, a professor of molecular oncology at Britain’s University of Warwick, said:
“Ideally, we want to be able to completely protect from infection, but I think we all accept that these so-called first generation vaccines are more likely to prevent disease. And the subtlety there, which is important, is if you’re infected then you can still transmit the virus.”