One of the teams competing to develop a coronavirus vaccine announced on Monday that the drug had shown 90 percent effectiveness against the disease, sending stock markets up and raising hopes that draconian restrictions on movement would end.
US drug giant Pfizer said tests involving more than 40,000 people had yielded results that were a “critical milestone” in the search for a vaccine, as global infections increased exceeded 50 million – almost a fifth of them in the United States.
Stock markets had already jumped after Joe Biden was called to the winner of the US presidential election this weekend and quickly accelerated on the vaccine news.
An effective vaccine is seen as the best hope to break the viral cycle followed by severe restrictions over large parts of the world since Covid-19 originated in China at the end of last year.
Tens of millions of people in Europe are currently living under restrictions that prevent them from leaving their homes, and millions of entrepreneurs are being forced to stop.
Locks and other restrictions have shredded the global economy, but with few other tools to protect vulnerable populations, politicians have felt their hands forced.
“We are a significant step closer to giving people around the world a much-needed breakthrough to end this global health crisis,” Pfizer President and CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement.
World Health Organization (WHO) Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tweeted shortly afterwards and welcomed the news.
We welcome the encouraging vaccine news from @pfizer & @ BioNTech_Group and welcome all researchers and partners around i who are developing new safe, effective tools to beat # COVID19. ? experience unsurpassed scientific innovation and collaboration to end the pandemic!
– Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus (@DrTedros) November 9, 2020
The drug, which is being developed together with the German company BioNTech, is one of more than 40 candidate vaccines, but no one else has yet made similar claims about its effectiveness.
The companies said they could overcome the latest obstacles to a US launch later this month and could deliver up to 50 million doses globally this year and up to 1.3 billion next year.
The scientific community reacted positively to the news, with America’s best expert Anthony Fauci describing the results as “extraordinary”.
However, others pointed out that no information had yet been revealed about the ages of the participants in the trial.
“If a vaccine is to reduce serious illness and death and thus enable the general population to return to their normal daily lives, it must be effective in older and older members of our society,” said Eleanor Riley of the University of Edinburgh.
Biden working group
The outgoing US President Donald Trump was among the first to react and wrote on Twitter: “STOCK MARKET UP GREAT, VACCINE COMING SOON. REPORT 90% EFFICIENT. SO BIG NEWS!”
Biden quickly followed and congratulated “the brilliant women and men who helped bring about this breakthrough”.
U.S. voters handed over the victory to Biden, at least in part because of Trump’s failure to empty the epidemic – often refusing to support restrictive measures or even disguise publicly and repeatedly undermine his own experts.
Biden, who will not be sworn in until January, has already announced a working group responsible for the management of the virus and promises to be informed by science and experts.
‘Out of control’
The vaccine news will be of great help to people in Europe – the current point of contact for the pandemic and the region subject to the most extensive restrictions.
Italy began to approach a complete shutdown, with experts warning of a drastic situation in hospitals.
“I am afraid there is no doubt that the situation is largely out of control,” said Massimo Galli, head of the infectious diseases department at Milan Hospital Sacco.
And the gloomy news continued to come elsewhere, with Russia surpassing its record for daily infections again on Monday and testing the government’s determination after saying it would not impose a new deadlock.
Hungary is now one of the hardest hit countries in terms of deaths in proportion to its population, and the government announced new national restrictions to enter into force on Wednesday.
In France, which has introduced nationwide home orders and clocked more than 40,000 cases a day, the central bank revised its curb expectations.
“Before the second wave, we thought the recession would be a little less than nine percent, today we believe that for 2020 as a whole it will be between nine and ten percent,” said Banque de France chief Francois Villeroy de Galhau.
Before the vaccine news came out, the World Health Organization once again warned against complacency over a disease that has killed more than 1.25 million people worldwide.
“We may be tired of Covid-19. But we are not tired,” said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
( Jowharwith AFP)