ABC News announces Pfizer vaccine data showing that it's "more effective than a placebo"

There’s actually some potentially great news buried in this announcement, assuming you can get past the ABC News headline that popped up in my Twitter feed this morning.

JUST IN: Initial glimpse at the data from Pfizer’s ongoing late-stage clinical trial shows that the company’s vaccine is more effective at preventing COVID-19 than placebo. ”

My immediate reaction was to wonder if they couldn’t have come up with a better description than “better than a placebo,” but the reality is that it looks far, far better than that. In fact, they’re reporting a 90% effectiveness rate, which sounds extremely encouraging. There are still more regulatory hoops to jump through, but Pfizer seems to be close to applying for permission to begin broad production and release of the vaccine and a few other companies are hot on their heels.

In a promising development, an initial glimpse at the data from Pfizer’s ongoing late-stage clinical trial shows that the company’s vaccine is more effective at preventing COVID-19 than placebo.

An early morning release said the vaccine from Pfizer and partner Biotech was “found to be more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19” according to an early analysis that included 94 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in trial participants.

“With today’s news, we are a significant step closer to providing people around the world with a much-needed breakthrough to help bring an end to this global health crisis,” said Dr. Albert Bourla, Pfizer Chairman and CEO, according to prepared remarks.

Moderna, AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson are also on track to release their own promising data, though the latter two ran into some safety issues that caused delays. They are still shooting for reaching the same stage of development as soon as early January, though.

Don’t go throwing away your facemasks and planning big parties just yet, however. Even if the 90% figure holds, Pfizer will still need to provide two months of safety data to the FDA, collected after the final rounds of injections in test subjects are complete. Assuming the FDA is satisfied, they may apply to first gain an emergency authorization to distribute the vaccine to the highest-risk subjects, including the elderly and those with underlying respiratory conditions. After that, the company can apply for approval to generally release the vaccine to the public.

So the bottom line here is that if the approvals roll through on the expected schedule, we could start seeing vaccinations becoming available in early spring with much of the country being able to get them by June. The less great news is that we’re anticipating the cold winter months to produce a wave of new cases, with some signs that this is happening already. But assuming we make it through this wave, we could be set up to have broad levels of immunity well ahead of the following winter… assuming that the immunity provided by the vaccines lasts for a sufficient period of time. That’s a question that remains up in the air.

And before we get too comfortable that rescue is on the way, don’t forget the 17 million minks currently being euthanized in Denmark. They managed to catch the virus, have it mutate in their systems into something that may be resistant to a vaccine, and spread it back to human beings. This virus is acting awfully adaptable and the medical community is going to have stay on top of this if we expect COVID to be contained at least as well as the seasonal flu. But I’ll take some good news wherever I can find it these days, so let’s hope that Pfizer knows what they’re doing.

Exit question: How many of you are old enough to remember when Trump said a vaccine would probably be developed by the end of the year and the networks beat him over the head with fact checks about that? I guess we’re not supposed to talk about that anymore.