Ministry of Health Epidemiology Technical Director Dr Avery Hinds.

Interim data from a COVID-19 vaccine in development by Pfizer and BioNTech is showing it to be the first effective vaccine which can reportedly prevent more than 90 per cent of people from getting the virus.

But Ministry of Health’s Epidemiology Unit Technical Director Dr Avery Hinds has cautioned that while there may be excitement, it is still “early days yet” on determining whether the vaccine is indeed safe and successful.

“While we’re quite excited – we join the world with the excitement with having a bright spot in the scientific literature —we are still maintaining the level of caution and scientific rigour that would be required to review the results further before deciding what this particular outcome means for Trinidad and Tobago,” Hinds said during yesterday virtual press conference.

He explained that it’s an experimental type of vaccine which deviates from the typical method used to train a person’s immune system to recognise “future experiences or encounters with a pathogen or virus.”

“That in and of itself is part of the reason we’re not sure exactly how this will go. But the short terms results they have seen so far have shown what they said is a 90 per cent protective effect,” Hinds said.

Hinds also cautioned that the number of people used so far in the study was still “relatively small and that as additional data comes out of that study, the actual percentage of that protection may change.”

According to a BBC report yesterday, the vaccine has been tested on 43,500 people in six countries.

However, the data presented in the preliminary report is based on only the first 94 volunteers to develop COVID-19.Hinds also said the tests were conducted over a reasonably short space of time.

“They (developers) have actually indicated two weeks would be needed to have enough information to take to the vaccine regulators with regard to whether to proceed further in (the) licensing and allowing the further use of this particular vaccine,” he said.

—Rishard Khan