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Good news came from Pfizer Monday about the outlook for its experimental COVID-19 vaccine, which it says is 90% effective. That’s well above the threshold of 50% effective that the government set for a viable vaccine earlier this year and compares well with vaccines like the flu shot.
“This result is towards the high end of expectations,” said an emailed comment from Shane Crotty, professor at the Center for Infectious Disease and Vaccine Research, La Jolla Institute for Immunology. “Greater than 90% efficacy at preventing disease, with 94 COVID-19 cases to evaluate, is an excellent outcome! It would be good to see more of the data, but those are very convincing numbers.”
It’s a good sign, according to medical experts, but the process isn’t yet over.
Natalie Dean, a biostatistician at the University of Florida, says she’s cautiously optimistic but waiting for more data. “There remain many open questions, such as how well the vaccine is working across different age groups, how well it is preventing infection and severe disease,” Dean wrote in an email to NPR. “But for the pre-specified primary endpoint of laboratory-confirmed symptomatic disease across the trial population, the numbers look very good.”
What does it mean for employers and workplace wellness officers? Has the timeline changed? What messages should employees be receiving at this stage?
Months still to go
Dr. Anthony Harris, chief innovation officer and associate medical director for the occupational health services company WorkCare, says the announcement from Pfizer doesn’t mean much for employers and chief medical officers—at least not yet.
“It actually doesn’t mean much in terms of plans they’ve already laid out to deal with COVID-19, and what they should be doing for symptomatic screening on a daily basis,” Harris says. Workplace screening and testing should continue for the foreseeable future.