Pfizer Says Vaccine 90% Effective; Biden Team Announces COVID-19 Transition Panel

November 9, 2020
Allison Inserro

Pfizer said interim data on its coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine show 90% efficacy; meanwhile, President-elect Joe Biden released the names of his coronavirus advisory board.

Pfizer said Monday that its coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine appears to be 90% effective, putting it closer to apply to the FDA for an emergency use authorization.

Also on Monday, the transition team for President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President–elect Kamala Harris released the names of scientific, medical, and public health professionals who will serve on its Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board.

The board will be led by cochairs David Kessler, MD; Vivek Murthy, MD, MBA; and Marcella Nunez-Smith, MD, MHS. Kessler, who served as FDA commissioner from 1990 to 1997 during both Republican and Democratic administrations, is a professor of pediatrics and epidemiology and biostatistics at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF). Murthy was the surgeon general from 2014 to 2017 under President Barack Obama, and Nunez-Smith is an associate professor of internal medicine, public health, and management at Yale University and the associate dean for health equity research at the Yale School of Medicine.

Both announcements come less than 48 hours after the race was called for Biden by the Associated Press and all news networks (with independent vote monitors) after incumbent President Donald Trump failed to reach the 270 Electoral College vote threshold.

Worldwide, COVID-19 has killed more than 1.2 million people and more than 230,000 in the United States.

The Pfizer announcement doesn’t mean a vaccine is imminent. “More data on safety is also needed, and we are continuing to accumulate that safety data as part of our ongoing clinical study,” said CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement. He said that a median of 2 months of those data after the second and final dose of the vaccine will be available by the third week of November.

Authorities have stressed it’s unlikely any vaccine will be available before the end of the year, and initial supplies are expected to go to health care workers and vulnerable populations.

Speaking on Sunday’s “Face the Nation,” former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, predicted that Biden would be taking office at the “apex” of the pandemic and then it would hopefully start to decline, but said the virus would not be conquered in 2021.

“And the only question is going to be how many people have died in the course of this and how many people have been infected. And we have to keep those numbers down as much as possible," he said.

Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board Meets

Biden spoke Monday after meeting with the advisory board and said his administration “will follow the science” in fighting the virus.

He said, however, that production and capacity for any vaccine would take months and urged the public to wear a mask.

The other members of the advisory board are:

  • Rick Bright, PhD, who was the director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) from 2016 to 2020 and the deputy assistant secretary for Preparedness and Response at HHS. He was demoted from BARDA and then resigned after filing a whistleblower lawsuit over the Trump administration’s handling of the pandemic.
  • Ezekiel J. Emanuel, MD, PhD, an oncologist and Vice Provost for Global Initiatives and chair of the Department of Medical Ethics and Health Policy at the University of Pennsylvania. Since 1997, he has served as chair of the Department of Bioethics at The Clinical Center of the National Institutes of Health.
  • Atul Gawande, MD, MPH, author and former CEO of Haven, the joint JP Morgan Chase–Berkshire Hathaway–Amazon health care venture. He is currently the Cyndy and John Fish Distinguished Professor of Surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Samuel O. Thier Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School, and professor of health policy and management at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
  • Eric Goosby, MD, infectious disease specialist and professor of medicine at the UCSF School of Medicine. Goosby was the founding director of the Ryan White CARE Act and was the interim director of the White House’s Office of National AIDS Policy.
  • Luciana Borio, MD, vice president, Technical Staff at In-Q-Tel. She is also a senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations and previously held senior leadership positions at the FDA and National Security Council in counterterrorism policy and emerging threats.
  • Celine Gounder, MD, ScM, FIDSA, a clinical assistant professor at the New York University Grossman School of Medicine and practicing physician at Bellevue Hospital Center.
  • Julie Morita, MD, executive vice president of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and former leader of the public health department in Chicago.
  • Michael Osterholm, PhD, MPH, Regents Professor, McKnight Presidential Endowed Chair in Public Health, and the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.
  • Loyce Pace, MPH, executive director and president of Global Health Council.
  • Robert Rodriguez, MD, professor of emergency medicine at the UCSF School of Medicine and a practicing emergency department and intensive care unit physician.