- On Monday, Pfizer announced that late-stage trials for its coronavirus vaccine have, so far, been more than 90% effective.
- The company, along with its partner BioNTech, are expected to apply for an emergency authorization from the Food and Drug Administration later this month.
- Still, more data from Pfizer’s ongoing third-phase trials must be collected, and these results must ultimately be peer-reviewed by other experts in the field before the vaccine is proven to be both safe and effective.
- Following the news, Vice President Mike Pence cited the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed as a key factor in Pfizer’s success, but as Pfizer stated, it has refused to accept government funding for vaccine research and development.
Pfizer Says Vaccine 90% Effective
Pfizer and the German biotechnology firm BioNTech said on Monday that their joint coronavirus vaccine is more than 90% effective.
Notably, this is the strongest indication yet that a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine could soon be made available for millions of people. It’s also setting a record pace. Vaccines typically take years to develop.
“I would say it’s a historical moment,” Kathrin Jansen, the head of vaccine research and development at Pfizer, told The New York Times. “Something like this has never happened before.”
“The results are really quite good, I mean extraordinary,” said Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, according to The Washington Post.
The trial, which is currently in phase 3, involves over 43,500 people. Of those people, half were given two doses of the vaccine trial and half were given a placebo.
In total, 94 of the people in the study have contracted COVID-19 (defined by Pfizer’s researchers as testing positive and displaying symptoms). Notably, Pfizer’s 90% efficacy figure comes from determining whether each of these 94 people was given the actual vaccine or a placebo. For the vaccine candidate to be 90% effective, that would mean at least 85 of those people must have come from the placebo group.
To note, the goal of vaccines are to prevent people from catching a virus, such as COVID-19 — not to treat people who’ve already been infected.
Pfizer to Apply for Emergency Authorization
Even though Pfizer’s announcement is a very hopeful sign, this data still needs to be peer-reviewed by other experts in the field.
Among the crucial questions that must be answered, scientists will need to determine how long this vaccine candidate offers protection and how it performs on high-risk groups, such as those with weakened immune systems. They will also need to evaluate whether the 94 cases documented by Pfizer were mostly mild or severe, as well as how cases differed between those who received the vaccine and those who received the placebo.
The trial itself also isn’t over. Pfizer and BioNTech will continue to collect data until 164 people in the trial contract COVID-19 — 70 more people. That could take a few weeks. Notably, it could also mean that the 90% efficacy finding could change.
Nonetheless, Pfizer and BioNTech plan to submit an emergency authorization application to the Food and Drug Administration after the third week of this month, possibly sometime during the week of Thanksgiving.
The companies are waiting until then because they say that’s around the time they expect to have two full months of safety follow-up data, as well as data on their manufacturing process.
Even though they’re officially waiting, Pfizer and BioNTech have already ramped up the production of their vaccine. According to The Washington Post, they hope to manufacture 50 million doses by the end of the year. Since the vaccine comes in two doses, that’d be enough for 25 million people. Beyond that, Pfizer and BioNTech have a goal of 1.3 billion doses by the end of 2021.
If Pfizer’s data does turn out to be as good as it suggests, that may bode well for another company conducting late-stage trials: Moderna. Moderna’s vaccine is very similar to Pfizer’s, as both use RNA to generate immunity against the coronavirus.
Pfizer Did Not Receive Government Support
Like many medical experts, politicians have been optimistic about these results. President-Elect Joe Biden, for example, congratulated “the brilliant men and women who helped produce this breakthrough and to give us such cause for hope.”
In his statement, Biden also stressed the need to continue wearing masks, noting that Americans have died from COVID-19 at a rate of 1,000 people per day over the past week.
Meanwhile, President Trump celebrated the vaccine’s reported efficacy rate and the bump in the stock market that this news brought. To note, in addition to investors’ reaction to Pfizer, the stock market also saw initial gains Monday because Biden has now been projected to win the presidency.
In another tweet, Vice President Mike Pence celebrated Pfizer’s 90% efficacy projection; however, Pence also seemed to suggest that Pfizer and BioNTech’s success was because of a partnership with the U.S. government.
In reality, unlike other vaccine developers that are also in late-stage trials, Pfizer never accepted any money from the government for vaccine research or development.
The “public-private partnership” Pence is referring to in his tweet is known as Operation Ward Speed, the Trump administration’s initiative aimed at developing a coronavirus vaccine.
“We were never part of the Warp Speed,” Jansen told The New York Times. “We have never taken any money from the U.S. government, or from anyone.”
In fact, the very reason Pfizer chose not to engage in Warp Speed was to remain independent and devoid of political influence.
“We have always said that science is driving how we conduct ourselves — no politics,” Jansen told The Times.
To note, in July, the U.S. government did reach a deal to buy 100 million doses from Pfizer for nearly $2 billion. That contract also included an option for the government to buy 500 million more doses. Nonetheless, that is much different than trying to claim that Operation Warp Speed is the reason why Pfizer has a seemingly effective vaccine.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (INSIDER)
Conservatives Slam Elmo For Getting Vaccinated Against COVID-19
While critics accused the muppet of promoting propaganda, CDC data shows the shots are safe and effective.
Elmo Gets Vaccinated
Conservative politicians expressed outrage on Twitter after the beloved “Sesame Street” character Elmo revealed he got vaccinated against COVID-19 on Tuesday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently cleared the way for children between the ages of six months and five years to get vaccinated against the virus. The famous red muppet is three years old, making him finally eligible for the jab.
In a video shared by “Sesame Street,” Elmo said that he felt “a little pinch, but it was okay.”
Elmo’s father, Louie, then addressed parents who might be apprehensive about vaccinating their own kids.
“I had a lot of questions about Elmo getting the COVID vaccine,” he said to the camera. “Was it safe? Was it the right decision? I talked to our pediatrician so I could make the right choice.”
“I learned that Elmo getting vaccinated is the best way to keep himself, our friends, neighbors, and everyone else healthy and enjoying the things they love,” he continued.
Republicans Criticize “Sesame Street”
While some praised the video for raising awareness and addressing the concerns parents may have, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx) quickly lambasted the effort.
“Thanks, Sesame Street for saying parents are allowed to have questions,” Cruz tweeted. “You then have Elmo aggressively advocate for vaccinating children UNDER 5. But you cite ZERO scientific evidence for this.”
Despite Cruz’s claim, the CDC has provided ample resources with information on vaccines for children.
He was not alone in criticizing the video. Harmeet Dhillon, a committeewoman of the Republican National Committee for California, suggested that Elmo would be taking puberty blockers next.
Other anti-vaxxers claimed Elmo would get myocarditis and accused “Sesame Street” of promoting propaganda.
COVID-19 vaccines have been proven to be both safe and effective against transmission of the virus, but this is not the first time conservatives have turned their anger against a friendly-looking muppet who opted to get the jab. When Big Bird got vaccinated in November, Cruz and other right-wing figures accused the show of brainwashing kids.
Big Bird’s choice to get vaccinated was not a shocker though, clips dating back to 1972 show him getting immunized against the measles.
See what others are saying: (CNN) (The Hill) (Market Watch)
Uvalde Puts Police Chief on Leave, Tries to Kick Him Off City Council
If Pete Arredondo fails to attend two more consecutive city council meetings, then he may be voted out of office.
Police Chief Faces Public Fury
Uvalde School District Police Chief Pete Arredondo was placed on administrative leave Wednesday following revelations that he and his officers did not engage the shooter at Robb Elementary for over an hour despite having adequate weaponry and protection.
Superintendent Hal Harrell, who made the announcement, did not specify whether the leave is paid or unpaid.
Harrell said in a statement that the school district would have waited for an investigation to conclude before making any personnel decisions, but chose to order the administrative leave because it is uncertain how long the investigation will take.
Lieutenant Mike Hernandez, the second in command at the police department, will assume Arredondo’s duties.
In an interview with The Texas Tribune earlier this month, Arredondo said he did not consider himself in charge during the shooting, but law enforcement records reviewed by the outlet indicate that he gave orders at the scene.
Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw told state senators on Tuesday that some officers wanted to enter the classrooms harboring the shooter but were stopped by their superiors.
He said officer Ruben Ruiz tried to move forward into the hallway after receiving a call from his wife Eva Mireles, a teacher inside one of the classrooms, telling him she had been shot and was bleeding to death.
Ruiz was detained, had his gun taken away, and was escorted off the scene, according to McCraw. Mireles later died of her wounds.
Calls for Arredondo to resign or be fired have persisted.
Emotions Erupt at City Council
Wednesday’s announcement came one day after the Uvalde City Council held a special meeting in which community members and relatives of victims voiced their anger and demanded accountability.
“Who are you protecting?” Asked Jasmine Cazares, sister of Jackie Cazares, a nine-year-old student who was shot. “Not my sister. The parents? No. You’re too busy putting them in handcuffs.”
Much of the anger was directed toward Arredondo, who was not present at the meeting but was elected to the city council on May 7, just over two weeks before the massacre.
“We are having to beg ya’ll to do something to get this man out of our faces,” said the grandmother of Amerie Jo Garza, a 10-year-old victim. “We can’t see that gunman. That gunman got off easy. We can’t take our frustrations out on that gunman. He’s dead. He’s gone. … Ya’ll need to put yourselves in our shoes, and don’t say that none of ya’ll have, because I guarantee you if any of ya’ll were in our shoes, ya’ll would have been pulling every string that ya’ll have to get this man off the council.”
One woman demanded the council refuse to grant Arredondo the leave of absence he had requested, pointing out that if he fails to attend three consecutive meetings the council can vote him out for abandoning his office.
“What you can do right now is not give him, if he requests it, a leave of absence,” she said. “Don’t give him an out. We don’t want him. We want him out.”
After hearing from the residents, the council voted unanimously not to approve the leave of absence.
On Tuesday, Uvalde’s mayor announced that Robb Elementary is set to be demolished, saying no students or teachers should have to return to it after what happened.
We make it a point to not include the names and pictures of those who may have been seeking attention or infamy and will not link out to websites that might contain such information.
Texas Public Safety Director Says Police Response to Uvalde Shooting Was An “Abject Failure”
New footage shows officers prepared to engage the shooter one hour before they entered the classroom.
Seventy-Seven Deadly Minutes
Nearly a month after the mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas that killed 19 children and two teachers, evidence has emerged indicating that police were prepared to engage the shooter within minutes of arriving, but chose to wait over an hour.
The shooting at Robb Elementary began at 11:33 a.m., and within three minutes 11 officers are believed to have entered the school, according to surveillance and body camera footage obtained by KVUE and the Austin American Statesman.
District Police Chief Pete Arredondo reportedly called a landline at the police department at 11:40 a.m. for help.
“It’s an emergency right now,” he said. “We have him in the room. He’s got an AR-15. He’s shot a lot… They need to be outside the building prepared because we don’t have firepower right now. It’s all pistols.”
At 11:52 a.m., however, the footage shows multiple officers inside the school armed with at least two rifles and one ballistic shield.
Law enforcement did not enter the adjoined classrooms to engage the shooter until almost an hour later, at 12:50 p.m. During that time, one officer’s daughter was inside the classrooms and another’s wife, a teacher, reportedly called him to say she was bleeding to death.
Thirty minutes before law enforcement entered the classrooms, the footage shows officers had four ballistic shields in the hallway.
Frustrated Cops Want to Go Inside
Some of the officers felt agitated because they were not allowed to enter the classrooms.
One special agent at the Texas Department of Public Safety arrived about 20 minutes after the shooting started, then immediately asked, “Are there still kids in the classrooms?”
“It is unknown at this time,” another officer replied.
“Ya’ll don’t know if there’s kids in there?” The agent shot back. “If there’s kids in there we need to go in there.”
“Whoever is in charge will determine that,” the other officer responded.
According to an earlier account by Arredondo, he and the other officers tried to open the doors to the classrooms, but found them both locked and waited for a master key to arrive. But surveillance footage suggests that they never tried to open the doors, which a top Texas official has confirmed were never actually locked.
One officer has told reporters that within minutes of the police response, there was a Halligan bar, which firefighters use to break down locked doors, on-site, but it was never used.
At a special State Senate committee hearing Monday, Texas Department of Public Safety Director Steve McCraw called the police response an “abject failure” and “antithetical to everything we’ve learned over the last two decades since the Columbine massacre.”
“The only thing stopping a hallway of dedicated officers from (entering rooms) 111 and 112 was the on-scene commander who decided to place the lives of officers before the lives of children,” he said. “The officers have weapons, the children had none.”