Yet there is mounting concern that the desire to be first with a vaccine is leading to rushed announcements which send share prices soaring but may ultimately fail to deliver.
Eleanor Riley, professor of immunology and infectious disease at the University of Edinburgh, warned that vaccine groups may be racing for the finish line at the expense of public health. Speaking about the Russian results, she said: “Whilst encouraging, I worry that these data have been rushed out on the back of the Pfizer/BioNtech announcement earlier in the week.
“This is not a competition. We need all trials to be carried out to the highest possible standards, and it is particularly important that the pre-set criteria for unblinding the trial data are adhered to avoid cherry-picking the data. Anything less than this risks a public loss of trust in all vaccines, which would be a disaster.”
Interim analyses of vaccine trials are often carried out in case the jabs prove to be dangerous or ineffective. But one former director at pharmaceutical giant GSK told The Telegraph he was “utterly appalled” that Pfizer had released the clinical trial data before peer-review.
“Really it’s just a cynical and egregious marketing ploy by Pfizer to get early orders, with money up front, because they know that mass vaccination with a vaccine that needs storage at -80 degrees is completely unworkable,” he said. “It’s just a dreadful example of big pharma trying to get its share price up and profits into its organisation before the Pfizer vaccine is declared totally impractical for widespread use in society.
“As soon as other vaccines are available, then this Pfizer vaccine will not be widely used. Hence their announcement to get in early.”
Many experts now believe the Pfizer vaccine will never be suitable for mass immunisation because of the cost and cold-chain storage required.