Pfizer accelerates Covid-19 vaccine efforts

Phase II/III Covid-19 vaccine trial expands to 44,000 people as efforts accelerate

Pfizer has accelerated its scientific research efforts to help bring forward a Covid-19 vaccine in partnership with German biotechnology company BioNTech, according to the pharmaceutical company.

Paul Reid, Managing Director, Pfizer Healthcare Ireland said: “Our Phase II/III trial has just been expanded from 30,000 people to 44,000 and we are on track to have the read-outs from that trial this month.”

He underlined that they were “manufacturing at risk”, meaning they were already making the vaccine while the trial concluded and while they sought regulatory approval in order to expedite global supply.

Reid’s remarks follow on results of new research launched by the company which found that more than half of those surveyed had been worried about visiting their general practitioner during lockdown, while slightly less than half were worried about visiting a hospital.

“One of the worrying aspects of the pandemic has been the impact on non-Covid related healthcare with patients not presenting to doctors and hospitals in the same manner that they normally would,” Reid added.

One-third (32%) of people surveyed claimed that pandemic-related lockdown and restrictions had resulted in a negative impact on their health. This was highest among those with a medical condition at 39 per cent and among 25 to 34-year-olds at 43 per cent.

Of those who stated they had been impacted, the main reasons cited were: lack of access to a doctor (46%), treatment delays (28%), lack of access to diagnostics or tests (25%) and diagnosis delays (16%).

In response to the results of the survey, the Irish Heart Foundation (IHF) said it was pressing the Government not to redeploy vital frontline staff from cardiac and stroke services to meet further surges of the pandemic.

“We are urging the public to seek immediate medical care if they experience heart issues or symptoms of stroke,” said Chris Macey, Head of Advocacy and Patient Support. “Any delay in seeking urgent medical care could have fatal consequences.”

With check-ups and appointments being cancelled and people reluctant to seek medical attention during the lockdown, the IHF believed the long-term impact of this would be seen over time.

The Irish Cancer Society added that the research results supported the data from the Health Service Executive that showed fewer people accessed diagnostic services during the heightened phases of the pandemic.

“Thankfully, the number of people being referred to cancer rapid access clinics is increasing but our message remains the same — when it comes to cancer, early detection is key and can be the difference between life or death in some cases,” said Rachel Morrogh, Director of Advocacy at the Irish Cancer Society.

Some 43 per cent of those surveyed indicated a medical appointment was cancelled; 26 per cent having had a patient-initiated cancellation and 25 per cent a healthcare professional/hospital-initiated cancellation.

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