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Pfizer Vaccine 90% Efficacy Buoys Travel Industry Optimism

Pfizer chief hails first results from Phase III trials as a “great day for science and humanity”

Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and BioNTech, a German biotechnology company, have announced the coronavirus vaccine they are partnering to develop was found to be more than 90 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 among those without evidence of prior infection.

The news has lifted airline and other travel-related stocks in an industry particularly hard-hit by the global pandemic. The US stock market surged nearly 1,700 points in early trading Monday on the news, with airline and hotel stocks among the leaders, as investors look to the vaccine to signal a quick recovery in business and leisure travel.

The US Global Jets, an exchange-traded fund in the airline sector, jumped 21 percent in premarket trading. Individual airlines were all up by double-digit percentages, led by American Airlines. Hotel stocks also registered gains with Marriott stock gaining over 20 percent in Monday morning trading.

Overall travel has seen a steady increase  since its low point in April, but remains depressed, running at about half or less of its 2019 pre-pandemic levels for domestic travel, with international travel still crushed by border closures and quarantine measures.

The vaccine news comes as worries mounted about a new spike in COVID-19 cases this winter prompting another shutdown for travel worldwide.

Pfizer chairman and CEO Dr. Albert Bourla hailed the results as a “great day for science and humanity,” Interviewed on CNBC’s “Squawk Box,”  Bourla said, “I think we can see light at the end of the tunnel.”

According to the Pfizer and BioNTech statement, the trial indicated a vaccine efficacy rate of above 90 percent at seven days after the second dose among vaccinated individuals versus those who received a placebo, which would render protection from the virus 28 days after the first of the two-dose vaccination regime. The announcement adds that no serious safety concerns have been reported yet.

The first interim efficacy analysis of the study’s results was conducted by the Data Monitoring Committee, an external and independent group of experts which oversees US clinical trials to ensure the safety of participants.

Immunologists have been looking for a coronavirus vaccine that is at least 75 percent effective. At 90 percent efficacy, the two-dose Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine would be about as effective as one dose of a measles vaccination, which is about 93 percent effective, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The companies caution, however, that vaccine efficacy percentages may vary as more data is collected regarding the vaccine’s safety and effectiveness.

The next step for Pfizer and BioNTech is to request an emergency use authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration. The companies say they plan to do that once they have gathered two months of data, which is likely to be sometime the third week of November.,