This chart has been making the rounds this morning. It’s from the FDA briefing paper on Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine:
The vaccine becomes effective about ten days after injection and remains effective four months later. Patients who received the vaccine reported minor adverse reactions that typically lasted a few days, but “The frequency of serious adverse events was low (<0.5%), without meaningful imbalances between study arms.”
All this said, I once again want to show the timeline for this vaccine development:
- January 10: China releases virus genome.
- Mid-February: Vaccine developed by partner BioNTech.
- December 8: Vaccine available for mass distribution.
We can argue all day long about whether the FDA was too slow to approve one thing or another, but don’t let this blind you to what’s happened here, which is beyond spectacular: we went from raw genome to approved vaccine in 11 months for a brand new virus. And several other companies have done the same. This is nothing less than a watershed in vaccine development, and there’s every reason to think that future development might reduce even this astonishing timeline.
I believe the 2020s will be the decade of CRISPR. The 2030s will probably be the decade of human-level AI. The 2040s will be the decade of climate change.¹ What we need now is a political system that can handle all this without collapsing from within.
¹To be clear: I believe that we will do far too little to address climate change over the next couple of decades. The 2040s will be the decade when it becomes obvious to even the most devoted skeptic that we’re in big trouble and have to do something. That something will probably be geoengineering, with cheap aerosol deployment in the stratosphere the leading candidate.