The University of Iowa participated in the trial of a Covid-19 vaccine that appears to be on the fast track for distribution.
The company today will ask the Food and Drug Association to grant Pfizer an “emergency use authorization for the vaccine.”
“They’re allowed to approve a medical countermeasure when the country is experiencing a public health emergency,” said Dr. Patricia Winokur, the principal investigator at the university for its part in the Pfizer trial, with about 250 participants.
Winokur, who is the executive dean of the University of Iowa College of Medicine, said outbreaks of similar viruses in 2002 and 2012 led to speedier-than-usual development of an effective Covid-19 vaccine.
“What that science identified is these other coronaviruses also had the spike protein…that sticks out on the surface,” Winokur said. “That protein is the most important protein for allowing the human body to create an immune response that protects you from infection.”
The other contributing factor to the speed of development is the research associated with vaccines being developed for cancer.
“We knew that we would have to create vaccines very quickly and, sometimes, in a very personalized way,” Winokur said.
That led to what Winokur described as the “new platform” being used for the two leading Covid-19 vaccines. Pfizer has announced the trials at the University of Iowa and elsewhere found its vaccine to be 95% effective.
“This data is better than any of us anticipated,” Winokur said. “We were hoping that it would be somewhere around 60-70% effective. The fact that it’s *95% effective is very heartening.”
In some years, for example, Winokur said the flu vaccine is about 70 percent effective in young people and 50 percent effective in older adults.
Pfizer had 44,000 participants in the final phase of its vaccine trial. Winokur said that’s 10 times as many as are normal — and another reason the public should have confidence in the vaccine. She made her comments Wednesday during a presentation to the Board of Regents.