A previously unpublished manuscript by Biontech and Pfizer rates the corona vaccine as “highly effective”. Why this assessment is insidious and what else is in the document.
Will Biontech vaccine slow down the virus? The answer to this question is eagerly awaited: Can the corona vaccination contain the pandemic by preventing infections on a larger scale? An unpublished manuscript is now circulating on the Biontech / Pfizer vaccine that suggests this. But the results are still difficult to interpret. The most important answers:
Isn’t it known how well the vaccines work?
Yes and no. In fact, there is reliable data for the three vaccines approved in the EU on how well they protect against corona disease. The active ingredient from Biontech / Pfizer has efficacy values of more than 90 percent. However, it has so far been unclear whether the vaccines only ensure that the disease does not break out or also protect against the infection as such. This is an important difference, because in order to contain the pandemic as quickly as possible, as few people as possible should be infected. In Germany around two percent of the population have already received the second dose of vaccine, most of them the Biontech agent.
What kind of manuscript is there at the moment?
It is a previously unpublished publication by Biontech and Pfizer together with the Israeli Ministry of Health. Using Israeli health data from vaccinated and unvaccinated people, it was examined, among other things, how well the active ingredient protects against diseases, but also against infections. Important to know: The manuscript has not been published by the companies, nor has it appeared in an expert journal. It was leaked to Israeli journalists from the “ynet” Internet portal and is available to the German Press Agency. Neither Biontech nor the Israeli Ministry of Health wanted to comment.
What’s in the manuscript?
The authors write that the active ingredient is “highly effective” in preventing infections with Sars-CoV-2. The y had the data from tens of thousands of positive corona tests in Israel available and looked at how many of those infected were vaccinated or not vaccinated. The result: The proportion of people with full vaccination protection who tested positive for Corona within a certain period of time was significantly lower than the proportion of those who were not vaccinated. The authors of the study write of an “effectiveness” of 89.4 percent for this protection.
Why should this number be used with caution?
The results of the study are not as clear-cut as the bare number suggests. The authors themselves point out that their approach may have led to the effect of vaccination on infections being overestimated. Because in Israel the unvaccinated are tested more often than the vaccinated. For this reason alone, there could have been more positive tests in the unvaccinated group. The Israeli news portal “ynet” also writes: “ The Ministry of Health made it clear that the data on effectiveness against infections are the least certain compared to the other data.”
What does a German expert say about the 89.4 percent?
Vaccination expert Sebastian Ulbert from the Fraunhofer Institute for Cell The rapy and Immunology (IZI) has a hard time making an assessment in an interview with the German Press Agency. He thinks the value of 89.4 percent is not very reliable. In the investigation, for example, there were not two defined groups (vaccinated and unvaccinated) that were regularly tested in a fixed manner. Instead, data from voluntary tests were used, which make comparisons difficult. In addition, the expert hopes that the approach of the study authors will be presented in a more detailed and comprehensible manner through the subsequent scientific review process than is the case in the current version.
What significance would it have if the risk of infection for vaccinated people were much lower?
The hope is that those who have been vaccinated will rarely be infected with Sars-CoV-2 and thus not pass on the pathogen. That would help enormously to get the infection situation under control. The SPD health expert Karl Lauterbach then interprets the results of the manuscript in this direction. “ The se evaluations are of great importance. The y are the first clear indication that after the vaccination one is neither infected nor contagious,” said the SPD politician of “Bild am Sonntag”. This means that the vaccination would actually enable herd immunity. “And make it possible to return to normal life. At least that’s what the results with Biontech suggest at the moment.”
When could there be more clarity?
Pfizer and Biontech have not yet commented on the leaked manuscript version. The two companies were expected to publish the paper in the coming days. Israel’s Corona commissioner Nachman Asch told the army broadcaster on Sunday that it was still unclear to what extent the corona vaccination would also prevent others from being infected. He hoped to find out more about it in the coming weeks. Other vaccine manufacturers have ongoing studies on the subject.
Which results are still in the study manuscript?
The investigation confirms once again that the vaccine is very effective in preventing diseases and Covid deaths. The study also showed that the vaccine also works with the more contagious variant B.1.1.7, which was first detected in the UK. Because at the time of the investigation, four out of five positive tests were due to the variant.