A new vaccine that will be produced in Kalamazoo is showing effectiveness, and the process of inoculating the world may be underway by year’s end. But for now, at least, the pandemic is far from over.
KALAMAZOO, Mich.—With the coronavirus vaccine Pfizer is developing with BioNTech, a German drugmaker, showing promise, the largest production facility in its network, located in Kalamazoo, is preparing to dedicate its resources to mass-producing the vaccine. But production on a scale to effectively end the current global health emergency is still months away.
The data showing Pfizer’s vaccine as 90% effective gives a lot of hope that a mass vaccination campaign could bring the pandemic to an end in 2021.
“This is a historical moment,” Kathrin Jansen, a senior vice president and the head of vaccine research and development at Pfizer, told the New York Times. “This was a devastating situation, a pandemic, and we have embarked on a path and a goal that nobody ever has achieved—to come up with a vaccine within a year.”
Pfizer’s results are preliminary, and the drugmaker has only released limited findings from its study. Even so, if their 90% effectiveness stands up to scrutiny, it would place the vaccine on par with many standard childhood vaccinations like those for measles, mumps, and rubella.
“We need to see the actual data, and we’re going to need longer-term results,” Jesse Goodman, a professor of medicine and infectious diseases at Georgetown University, told the Times. Still, he said, “it’s a testament to hard work and science that we’re getting results that are so good and so fast.”
If the vaccine proves its efficacy and safety, it’ll be record-shattering. Kaiser Health News points out that most vaccines take over five years to develop. The current vaccine for mumps holds the record for the fastest to be approved for public inoculation at around four years.
However, mass production of the vaccine can’t begin until the end of November, at the earliest, when the needed two months of safety observations for emergency approval will be finished.
Pfizer, thanks to their presence in Kalamazoo, hopes to have doses to inoculate as many as 20 million people by year’s end.
Andy Widger, the senior director of global communications for Pfizer, told WWMT that Kalamazoo produced the trial version of the promising vaccine and is preparing to produce the vaccine en masse when the Food and Drug Administration approves it for production.
Notably, as COURIER reports, Pfizer did not develop this vaccine in partnership with President Donald Trump’s Operation Warp Speed, but in partnership with the German company called BioNTech. Though the Trump administration has tried to blast the announcement as politicized and tried to take credit for the vaccine’s development, Pfizer officials pushed back on both counts, according to COURIER.
Should the vaccine be approved for production by December, the actual process of distributing the vaccine and giving inoculations will take time, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer reminded Michiganders. The pandemic is far from over, and basic pandemic precautions like observing social distance, wearing masks, and rigorous hand washing will be important well into 2021.
“We must remember that when the vaccine is ready, it will take time to distribute, and we need everyone to continue doing their part to protect each other from COVID-19,” she said. “It is crucial that leaders across the country listen to science and the recommendations of health experts, and President-Elect Biden has made it clear that he shares that commitment. I look forward to working closely with him and medical experts everywhere to fight this virus and save lives.”