A vaccine jointly developed by US pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and German biotech firm BioNTech was 90 per cent effective in preventing Covid-19 infections in ongoing Phase 3 trials, the companies announced yesterday.
The news came as soaring coronavirus cases across the world have forced millions of people back into lockdown, causing further damage to ravaged economies.
But the Kenyan government said it is cautiously optimistic about the news that the vaccine is 90 per cent effective.
Health Cabinet Secretary Mutahi Kagwe said they will closely watch the data in the ongoing trials as they seek to pick the best vaccine for Kenya.
"This is a big decision, and when we pick one from the many, evidence will guide us on what is a star vaccine for us," Mr Kagwe told the Nation.
Acting Health Director-General Patrick Amoth said; “We Express cautious optimism as the scientists analyse the data further."
The two companies yesterday posted a joint statement on Pfizer's website even as Kenya battles the second wave of the pandemic that has killed 1,130 people and infected more than 63,244 others. The country lost 19 more people to the virus yesterday.
The toll was the third highest since the outbreak of the pandemic in March.
The country recorded 756 new positive cases from a sample size of 4,316. Out of the 746,797 tests conducted so far, 63,244 have tested positive.
Of the reported 728 recoveries, 645 were from home-based care and 83 from hospitals.
According to preliminary statement findings in the Covid-19 vaccine trial, protection in patients was achieved seven days after the second of two doses, and 28 days after the first.
The companies said they expect to supply up to 50 million vaccine doses globally this year and up to 1.3 billion doses next year.
"The first set of results from our Phase 3 Covid-19 vaccine trial provides the initial evidence of our vaccine's ability to prevent Covid-19," Pfizer Chairman and CEO Albert Bourla said in a statement.
"We are a significant step closer to providing people around the world with a much-needed breakthrough to help bring an end to this global health crisis," he said.
"We are reaching this critical milestone in our vaccine development programme at a time when the world needs it most."
While the Pfizer-BioNTech trial has yet to be peer-reviewed by experts, scientists reacted positively, if cautiously, to the results.
Michael Head, Senior Research Fellow in Global Health, University of Southampton, called it an "excellent result for a first generation vaccine".
Peter Horby, Professor of Emerging Infectious Diseases and Global Health in the Nuffield Department of Medicine, University of Oxford, said Pfizer's announcement "feels to me like a watershed moment" in the pandemic.
But others pointed out that there would likely be significant logistical problems in getting the vaccine to everyone, especially given it must be kept super-cooled and currently requires two doses to bestow immunity.
Eleanor Riley, professor of Immunology and Infectious Disease at the University of Edinburgh said for example that yesterday’s results did not disclose the ages of participants.
Additional reporting by Hellen Shikanda