A medical professional prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine at the Qalandiya checkpoint in east Jerusalem, Israel, on Tuesday. Photo by Debbie Hill/UPI | License Photo
Feb. 25 (UPI) -- The coronavirus vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech has performed as well in real-world conditions as it did in clinical trials, according to the first study of its kind of the COVID-19 era.
The study examined the vaccine's effectiveness in 600,000 pairs of vaccinated and unvaccinated people, comparing all illnesses, hospitalizations and deaths. The study was performed in Israel.
According to the results, the vaccine was found to be effective in about 94% of all people who were inoculated. Clinical trials of the vaccine reported its effectiveness at almost the exact same figure.
"Estimated vaccine effectiveness during the follow-up period starting seven days after the second dose was 92% for documented infection, 94% for symptomatic COVID-19, 87% for hospitalization, and 92% for severe COVID-19," the study, published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, said.
Senior author Ran Balicer, director of the Clalit Research Institute of Israel, said the results confirmed for the first time the vaccine's effectiveness beyond controlled clinical conditions.
"The vaccine fulfilled the promise that was there," Balicer said. "And it was somewhat of a surprise to see that in a real-world setting, a vaccine was able to perform as well as it did in the very controlled setting of a clinical trial, where cold-chain is perfect and the people are being carefully selected."
Balicer warned that there's potential for a false sense of security. Although the drug proved highly effective among the thousands examined, he said, there were still people who were fully vaccinated and still developed severe COVID-19.
"These vaccines are not a force field around you that negates the chance that you will have an illness or that you will have a severe illness," he said. "There is a residual risk.
"And so I think continuing precautions, especially among those populations at risk at a time when community spread is evident and is massive ... would be the prudent thing to do, even for those who are fully vaccinated."
The vaccine by Pfizer and BioNTech is one of two coronavirus vaccines (Moderna) that have been approved for use in the United States. A slightly different vaccine developed by Johnson & Johnson is expected to become the third when it's approved by U.S. regulators, which is expected soon.
Other vaccines from Novavax and GSK/Sanofi are also still in development, and one from AstraZeneca and Oxford University has been approved for use in some countries.