Pfizer, Texas Biomed see promising results in prototype vaccine

Expert says vaccine prevented any virus from being detectable in the lungs in 100% of primates

SAN ANTONIO – The early, yet incomplete results showing Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine was 90% effective in humans are similar to what Texas Biomed saw in macaque monkeys after being infected with the virus.

Dr. Larry Schlesinger, Texas Biomed president and CEO, said some of the studies conducted in the lower airways showed “the vaccine actually prevented any virus from being detectable in the lungs in 100% of the primates.”

Schlesinger said there was a small amount of detectable virus in the nose, “but this was a very potent vaccine in the preclinical animal studies.” He said vaccine trials depend on natural infection, but more is needed.

“It was only a subgroup of individuals,” Schlesinger said. “The study needs to be completed, and final safety monitoring needs to be reported.”

But so far, he said, “It appears to be quite safe.”

Schlesinger said convincing the public is another matter, as vaccine hesitancy is “a huge challenge.”

“For me to say it’s safe is different than people feeling comfortable taking a brand new vaccine,” Schlesinger said. “If we don’t use the vaccine, then what good is it?”

Schlesinger said transparency is vital to help build the public’s trust.

Pfizer announced the potential breakthrough a few days after the presidential election, during which talk of a vaccine became politically charged.

“I do believe that Pfizer is reporting this based on data they have received as a result of interval analysis of a clinical trial,” Schlesinger said. “So, at face value, it’s coincidental that it’s happened around this time.”

He said Pfizer had previously said it would have early results around this time.

“I know that many of us who are experts in the field are reviewing all of this critically,” Schlesinger said. “It is a press release. It’s not a scientific report. We need to have a cautionary tale here.

Related: Pfizer says COVID-19 vaccine is looking 90% effective

About the Authors:

Jessie Degollado has been with KSAT since 1984. She is a general assignments reporter who covers a wide variety of stories. Raised in Laredo and as an anchor/reporter at KRGV in the Rio Grande Valley, Jessie is especially familiar with border and immigration issues. In 2007, Jessie also was inducted into the San Antonio Women's Hall of Fame.

Luis Cienfuegos is a photographer at KSAT 12.