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08/23/2021

FDA approves first COVID-19 vaccine

Pfizer-BioNTech’s COVID-19 vaccine Comirnaty will be marketed for the prevention of COVID-19 in individuals age 16 years old and older. 
Sandra Levy
Senior Editor
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Today, the Food and Drug Administration approved Pfizer-BioNTech's COVID-19 Vaccine, which will now be marketed as Comirnaty (koe-mir'-na-tee), for the prevention of COVID-19 disease in individuals 16 years of age and older.

The vaccine also continues to be available under emergency use authorization, including for individuals 12 through 15 years of age and for the administration of a third dose in certain immunocompromised individuals.

[Related Content: Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna booster shot to be available in September]

"The FDA's approval of this vaccine is a milestone as we continue to battle the COVID-19 pandemic. While this and other vaccines have met the FDA's rigorous, scientific standards for emergency use authorization, as the first FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine, the public can be very confident that this vaccine meets the high standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality the FDA requires of an approved product," said acting FDA commissioner Janet Woodcock. "While millions of people have already safely received COVID-19 vaccines, we recognize that for some, the FDA approval of a vaccine may now instill additional confidence to get vaccinated. Today's milestone puts us one step closer to altering the course of this pandemic in the U.S."

Since Dec. 11, 2020, the Pfizer-BoNTech COVID-19 vaccine has been available under EUA in individuals 16 years of age and older, and the authorization was expanded to include those 12 through 15 years of age on May 10, 2021. 

"Our scientific and medical experts conducted an incredibly thorough and thoughtful evaluation of this vaccine. We evaluated scientific data and information included in hundreds of thousands of pages, conducted our own analyses of Comirnaty's safety and effectiveness, and performed a detailed assessment of the manufacturing processes, including inspections of the manufacturing facilities," said Peter Marks, director of FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research. "We have not lost sight that the COVID-19 public health crisis continues in the U.S. and that the public is counting on safe and effective vaccines. The public and medical community can be confident that although we approved this vaccine expeditiously, it was fully in keeping with our existing high standards for vaccines in the U.S."

The FDA reviewed updated data from the clinical trial which supported the EUA and included a longer duration of follow-up in a larger clinical trial population.

[Related Content: FDA authorizes COVID booster for certain immunocompromised individuals]

Specifically, in the FDA's review for approval, the agency analyzed effectiveness data from approximately 20,000 vaccine and 20,000 placebo recipients ages 16 and older who did not have evidence of the COVID-19 virus infection within a week of receiving the second dose. The safety of Comirnaty was evaluated in approximately 22,000 people who received the vaccine and 22,000 people who received a placebo 16 years of age and older.

Based on results from the clinical trial, the vaccine was 91% effective in preventing COVID-19 disease.

More than half of the clinical trial participants were followed for safety outcomes for at least four months after the second dose. Overall, approximately 12,000 recipients have been followed for at least 6 months.

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