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Photo: Dogukan Keskinkilic/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Pfizer and BioNTech's preliminary analysis — suggesting their vaccine was 90% effective at preventing symptomatic coronavirus disease — created some light at the end of this long, dark tunnel.

Why it matters: 90% efficacy is on the high end of what experts were hoping for, and Pfizer's good — albeit preliminary — news is also an encouraging sign for how well other, similar vaccines could work.

Between the lines: The Pfizer vaccine targets what's called the "spike protein" of the virus. So do all of the other vaccines being developed by major manufacturers working with Operation Warp Speed, STAT's Helen Branswell writes.

  • "There was always a discussion: Is the spike protein the right target? Well, now we know it's the right target," Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told STAT. "So, it's not only immediate good news, it really is optimistic about what's going to roll out in the next several months with the other vaccines."
  • A highly effective vaccine could also convince people that getting it is worthwhile. "Vaccine hesitancy diminishes proportionately inversely with the efficacy of a vaccine," Fauci said.

Yes, but: One big outstanding question is whether the Pfizer vaccine blocked mostly mild cases, or some severe ones too.

What we're watching: Millions of Americans could possibly be vaccinated by the end of the year.

  • But a lot of things still have to go right, including the complicated logistics of distributing vaccines across the country, determining who should get them and how, and then ensuring recipients get both shots of the vaccine.

Go deeper: Axios Re:Cap interviews Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla about vaccine data, distribution, politics, and how he reacted upon receiving the news.

Go deeper

Jan 29, 2021 - Health

WHO says most pregnant women can now receive coronavirus vaccine

A doctor administering Moderna's coronavirus vaccine at a university hospital in Essen, Germany, on Jan. 18. Photo: Lukas Schulze/Getty Images

The World Health Organization has altered its guidance for pregnant women who wish to receive the coronavirus vaccine, saying now that those at high risk of exposure to the COVID-19 or who have comorbidities that increase their risk of severe disease, may be vaccinated.

Why it matters: The WHO drew backlash for its previous guidance that did not recommend pregnant women be inoculated with vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, even though data indicated that pregnancy increased the risk of developing severe illness from the virus.

Jan 29, 2021 - Health

Ex-CDC director Tom Frieden on the next COVID-19 vaccines

Americans fortunate enough to receive COVID vaccines now, outside of clinical trials, are getting shots made by either Pfizer or Moderna. But newly released data from Novavax and Johnson & Johnson suggests that more vaccines could be on the way, with J&J's requiring a single dose.

Axios Re:Cap digs into the news and why it matters with Tom Frieden, former head of the CDC, as COVID-19 variants spread globally.

Jan 29, 2021 - World

EU grants conditional approval of AstraZeneca vaccine

Photo: Sunil Ghosh/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

The European Commission on Friday granted conditional approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for people 18 years and older.

Why it matters: This is the third vaccine to receive approval from the commission, coming hours after the Emergency Medicines Agency recommended its authorization.