Stephen McNeice
Stephen McNeice

17.55 18 Nov 2020


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Professor Luke O'Neill says Ireland needs to make sure we get our 'fair share' of any coronavirus vaccine.

The leading immunologist says Pfizer's latest announcement is "yet more good news" - and that we should expect news about a third vaccine candidate before Christmas.

Pfizer today announced that its trials show their vaccine candidate was 95% effective against the virus - a higher level of protection than their early results showed just a week ago.

It comes in the same week that pharmaceutical company Moderna announced similar results from their own vaccine candidate trials.

The European Union has already bought 200 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine, with the option to buy another 100 million, while the Government here has set up a taskforce to start planning for the rollout.

Professor O'Neill told The Hard Shoulder that if a vaccine is approved by regulators, the focus will quickly shift to how it will be rolled out.

Luke O'Neill: 'We have to make sure Ireland gets our fair share of coronavirus vaccines'

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He said: "It will be a disgrace if the Irish government doesn't get access to these vaccines, because it then becomes a case of logistics.

"We've got to make sure Ireland is at the top of the queue, or at least with everyone else... that we're going to get our fair share of these vaccines.

"What they're talking about is that there'll be a truck coming from Belgium - where the Pfizer vaccine is being made - that will get onto an airplane and over to Dublin. That will be a day to film.

"We've got to make sure that's all in place."

Professor O'Neill said the other difficulty facing the Government will be to convince people to take a vaccine - something he says there will be 'many, many different strategies' for, especially once the scientific data is available to help reassure people.

'Looking even better'

Today's announcement was another press release from a company, meaning scientists don't yet have access to the raw data from the trial.

However, Professor O'Neill said things are now 'looking even better' despite the caveats, and there doesn't seem to be any significant side effects from the virus.

He explained: "The safety signs are really good.

"A very small percent of people got headaches... I think it was 2.5%. Just over 3% got fatigue. These are pretty minor.

"Our worry would [have been] more severe side effects, because that would have killed this... but [they've] ticked the box on safety, which gives us reassurance."

He said he doesn't see the companies making such big claims about their vaccine unless they're well supported, as otherwise there'd be 'egg on their face' if it didn't work out.

Professor O'Neill also said we can expect more results from other companies in the coming weeks.

He said: "AstroZeneca is separate technology again - they're kind of predicting 70% efficacy with that one, which is slightly less... 70% is still very good, by the way.

"We should know from AstroZeneca from before Christmas, in the coming weeks. Can you imagine if a third vaccine with high efficacy is announced?"


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