Washington. Two US companies hope to apply for emergency approval for their covid-19 vaccines by the end of November, good news for the United States at a time when it is experiencing a new upturn in cases, with a total of more than eight million.
Pfizer said Friday that it hopes to take a step forward with its vaccine after safety data becomes available in the third week of November, a couple of weeks after the November 3 presidential election.
The announcement means that the United States could have two vaccines ready by the end of the year, with the addition of one from the Massachusetts biotechnology firm Moderna, which is targeting November 25 to request authorization.
“Assuming positive data, Pfizer will apply for the use of emergency authorization in the United States soon after the safety milestone is achieved in the third week of November,” said the company’s president and CEO, Albert Bourla, in a letter. open.
The news had an impact on the company’s shares, which rose two percent in the United States after the announcement.
But experts warn that even when vaccines are approved, it will take several months for them to become widely available.
In any case, they are unlikely to be a good substitute for wearing masks, social distancing, and other recommended behaviors to curb transmission, as how effective they will be is unknown at this time.
– Meetings inside because of the cold –
After the fall in infections during the summer, the country reached a tipping point in its coronavirus outbreak around the second week of September, with a new average daily cases of more than 50,000, according to the latest figures, and the trajectory is upward.
With more than eight million confirmed infections and over 217 thousand deaths, the United States is the most affected country in the world.
Current numbers indicate that the country has never been this close to returning to the levels of its first wave in the spring, so the peak of these days can be considered a third increase.
Geographically, the main points of infection are in the Midwest area to the north, and in parts of the West, while some regions of the Northeast hard hit in spring are experiencing outbreaks.
Harvard surgeon and health policy researcher Thomas Tsai told AFP that there are multiple factors behind the increase in cases, from insufficient evidence in the Midwest to a lack of monitoring and backtracking by authorities on reopening. .
In addition, “from contact tracing reports from various municipalities and states, the concern is that the spread is now being driven by social gatherings inside people’s homes,” he added. The advance of the cold in the boreal autumn takes more and more the social life to closed spaces.
One positive sign is that COVID-19 treatments have improved remarkably, and since cases are more scattered, hospitals are not collapsed.
The widespread use of masks can also mean that when people become infected they have less virus in their body, making them less sick.
– No magic formulas –
While vaccines are a crucial tool against the virus, experts caution that they cannot be considered a substitute for preventive measures such as wearing masks and social distancing.
“It is good news that there is one more thing that can help prevent the transmission of Covid,” said Priya Sampathkumar, an infectious disease doctor and professor at the Mayo Clinic.
“But I think we need to be cautious and understand that a vaccine is not a magic bullet,” he added.
Pfizer and Moderna, both funded by the US government, launched the third phase of their clinical trials in late July, and both are producing their doses simultaneously. Its goal is to deliver tens of millions of doses to the country before the end of the year.
Both are “mRNA vaccines,” a new experimental platform that has never been fully approved before. The experiments consist of injections with the genetic material necessary to develop the SARS-CoV-2 “spike protein” within people’s own cells, thus eliciting an immune response that the body will remember when it encounters the real virus.
This effectively turns a person’s body into a vaccine factory, avoiding the costly and difficult processes required by more traditional vaccine production.
But while the approach may have helped put Pfizer and Moderna first in the vaccine race, a major drawback is that they require freezers for storage, which could limit distribution.