Pfizer vaccine is not a ‘slam dunk,’ warns UK prime minister

The breakthrough Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine has been given a cautious welcome by U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who said it was “good news” …

Albert Bourla, Pfizer’s PFE, +7.69% chairman and chief executive, said “today is a great day for science and humanity” announcing the first interim results in large-scale vaccine trials of the vaccine from New York–based Pfizer and partner BioNTech BNTX, +13.91%22UA, +15.45%, headquartered in Mainz, Germany.

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Johnson, one of the first world leaders to comment at length about the breakthrough, said: “Is it good news? Of course it’s good news, but there’s a long way to go, I’m afraid, before we’ve got this thing to be perfect.”

Speaking at a routine press conference he added: “I just don’t want to let people run away with the idea that this development, today is necessarily a home run, a slam dunk, a shot to the back of the net yet.

“It’s obviously potentially very very good news, but there’s still a lot of hurdles that need to be overcome before we can be certain about the efficacy of this vaccine and exactly how it is going to work.

“What I can say is that if and when this vaccine is approved, we in this country will be ready to start using it. Earlier this year, the U.K. government ordered 40 million doses of the Pfizer vaccine.”

The U.S. in July placed an order for 100 million doses contingent on approval of or an emergency-use authorization for the vaccine.

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The U.K.’s deputy chief medical officer, Jonathan Van-Tam, was more upbeat: “This is really a very important scientific breakthrough. I’m certain of that.” He went as far as to suggest that “we could begin to see some vaccine by Christmas.”

The country has ordered over 300 million doses of five other vaccine candidates, as well.

The prime minister reiterated his congratulations to President-elect Biden and running mate Sen. Kamala Harris and said the U.K. has always had a strong relationship with the White House.

“I’ve no doubt that we will continue to have a very, very strong, very close relationship with our American friends ,and one thing that is very exciting, that you’re already seeing from the incoming administration, is their willingness to join the U.K. in the campaign to tackle climate change.”

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When asked if he had spoken to President Donald Trump and advised him to throw in the towel rather than continue to assert he will emerge as the Nov. 3 election’s rightful winner, Johnson said: “I don’t wish to offer any other commentary on the U.S. election. It is not for me to offer commentary on it. Clearly I want to congratulate President-elect Biden.”

Watch BBC footage of Johnson fielding that question: