Transparency by pharmaceutical companies, scrutiny by journalists, vital in vaccine news |

The chairman and CEO of Pfizer announced in a Pfizer press release: “Today is a great day for science and humanity.” In this PR press release – but only in this format – Pfizer announced initial results of “a vaccine efficacy rate of over 90% 7 days after the second dose”.

That’s all we know – what Pfizer says about its own vaccine. The data has not been published or published publicly – just this 90% figure.

Regarding safety, the Pfizer company’s press release states, “No Serious Safety Concerns Have Been Identified.” In the absence of raw data published, we do not know how “serious” was defined.

Pfizer has carried out a project: “We look forward to sharing additional efficacy and safety data generated by thousands of participants in the coming weeks.”

In an early story STAT did a good job of covering reservations and limitations. Excerpts:

“… key information about the vaccine is not yet available. There is still no information on whether the vaccine prevents serious cases, the kind that can lead to hospitalization and death.

There is still no information on whether it will prevent people from transmitting the virus that causes Covid-19, SARS-CoV-2, without symptoms.

“If this headline really lasts, it’s huge. This is a lot better than I expected, and it will make a big difference, ”said Ashish Jha, dean of the School of Public Health at Brown University. However, he cautioned that it is always difficult to evaluate science through press releases and that researchers need to see the full results. He noted that there are side effects to watch out for because even if there aren’t serious long-term complications, people who feel sick for a day or two could make some reluctant to take a vaccine.

The story of how the data was analyzed seems to be quite dramatic. Pfizer saw the opportunity to both help fight a pandemic and demonstrate its research achievements, and made decisions that would likely always make its study the first of a Covid-19 vaccine to provide data.

The New York Times reported:

Pfizer … released sparse details from its clinical study.

Independent scientists have warned against playing over early results before collecting long-term safety and efficacy data. And no one knows how long the vaccine’s protection will last.

(A senior VP of Pfizer) tried to distance the company from Operation Warp Speed ​​and the president’s policies, noting that unlike the other vaccine front-runners, the company did not take federal money to research and development finance.

It was clear to Vox that even with the limitations of a Twitter post, it was important to take into account important reservations:

This level of control, especially on one of the first messages out of the gate, is vital. Not all of them met this standard.

As BuzzFeed headlined: “Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine is more than 90% effective according to initial data“, Suggested the journalist Paul Thacker a repair for this headline – “Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine is more than 90% effective, says incomplete data that has not been validated by independent experts.” The phrase “extremely promising” has been used twice in history. Stalk and white in The elements of style, suggested eliminating unnecessary words. “Extreme” is unnecessary. And “promising” is one of my seven longstanding words that you shouldn’t use in medical news.

CNN didn’t have an independent perspective in its first story.

Fox News promised too muchwhich states, “FOX Business is taking a look at the key data points investors and consumers should know.”

Of course, much of the second wave of news is already celebrating the jump in Pfizer stock and the stock market in general in response to the Pfizer PR press release.

Scientist James Heathers tweeted:

Just last week, Professors Jennifer Miller, Joseph Ross and Michelle Mello published on STAT:Much more transparency is needed for COVID-19 vaccine studies. ”Her conclusion:“ Transparency will help ensure that this achievement is trusted. ”You can judge for yourself whether today’s Pfizer PR press release meets these trust and transparency standards.

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