In a release that was sent out earlier today, Pfizer shared the news that they have received clearance from the FDA to begin clinical trials for an investigational vaccine that protects against the severe Coronavirus infection, including the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, or MERS.
In their release, Pfizer also stated, “For approximately a month, patients in the Phase 2 trial will be dosed with vaccinations made by Pfizer Pharma Technologies LLC. The vaccine is currently being used in investigational large-scale studies evaluating its potential to prevent or treat coronavirus infection in healthy adults. This Phase 2 trial is open to adult volunteers 18 years of age and older.”
The rationale behind their decision to go for an investigational vaccine is a serious one. According to an earlier CDC briefing from this past October, the coronavirus has already caused 128 illness and 30 deaths worldwide. The current prevalence of the virus is three times higher than the global average for previous coronavirus epidemics. From the CDC briefing, “CDC estimates that the current level of activity of the Coronavirus, MERS-CoV, will increase rapidly over the next six months with substantial number of new cases likely occurring between now and May. In addition, the recent increase in laboratory-confirmed case in a wide geographic area including Saudi Arabia, has increased concern about the transmission of the virus.”
It is important to note that the present Coronavirus infection is not limited to Middle Eastern populations or individuals. CDC estimates a significant number of cases have been reported outside of the Middle East and in Europe. Prior to April 2014, the coronavirus infection was confined to just the Arabian Peninsula, and the following six months had only one reported case in the United States and four other European countries.
However, Pfizer’s announcement shows us that some kind of approach towards countering the current situation is being developed, albeit slowly. Through the coordination of multiple government agencies and the efforts of the medical community, we will see a number of interventions put in place to limit the spread of this highly lethal virus to other areas of the world. The work of Pfizer to develop and manufacture an investigational vaccine is a welcome piece of this puzzle. The difficult challenge that the pharmaceutical company has taken on will hopefully pay off in the form of a preventative vaccine that will eventually be made available to individuals all over the world, and hopefully shorten the lives of those that have so far been affected by the current growing epidemics.