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Photo: Robert Michael/picture alliance via Getty Images

Pfizer's coronavirus vaccine may be more effective after just one shot than researchers had previously realized, and can be stored for two weeks at standard temperatures typically found in pharmaceutical freezers and refrigerators, according to new data.

Why it matters: The findings about first-dose efficacy, which appear in a new analysis published in The Lancet, appear to support a strategy of delaying second shots in order to make the most of limited supplies. That's what the U.K. has done, and some experts have called for a similar approach in the U.S.

Separately, Pfizer and BioNtech's announcement that vaccine vials can be stored and transported at -25°C to-15°C (-13°F to 5°F) could allow the vaccine to be handled by ordinary pharmacies that aren't equipped with ultra-low freezers, which have been an impediment in the vaccine rollout.

  • The companies said that they had submitted a proposed update to the FDA's emergency use authorization to allow the vaccine to be stored at these temperatures "as an alternative or complement to storage in an ultra-low temperature freezer."

Details: Pfizer's clinical trials initially showed that its vaccine prevented roughly 52% of infections after one dose, rising to 95% after two doses.

  • The new research published in The Lancet, however, found that the first shot of Pfizer's vaccine actually prevented about 75% of infections, and 85% of symptomatic infections, up to 28 days after it was administered.
  • The findings were based on an evaluation of about 9,000 people in Israel, which has vaccinated over two-thirds of its adult population, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Yes, but: There are some limitations to this study and its implications for delaying second doses.

  • Although the first dose appeared to be more powerful than originally anticipated, researchers still don't know how long its effects will last.
  • Pfizer recommends getting the second dose 21 days after the first one. The Israeli study measured the efficacy of the first shot within 15 to 28 days of its administration — not a significant delay. And most participants in the trial did receive their second shots, the authors told the WSJ.

The big picture: Most of the people in this study got their second doses, and got those doses on time. Second doses were not delayed in this case, and so this study does not directly answer the question of what happens when you delay second doses.

  • The findings will bolster calls to delay second doses because they indicate that first doses are more effective than we realized — making a compelling case to get that level of protection to as many people as possible as quickly as possible, to save lives and bring the pandemic under control.

Go deeper

Dave Lawler, author of World
Feb 19, 2021 - World

U.S. commits $4 billion to COVAX vaccine initiative

Biden. Photo: Kevin Dietsch/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty

The U.S. is committing $2 billion for the global COVAX vaccine initiative within days (using funds already allocated by Congress), plus an additional $2 billion over the next two years, the White House announced ahead of Friday's virtual G7 summit.

Why it matters: Senior administration officials told reporters Thursday evening that they'll use those commitments to "call on G7 partners Friday both to make good on the pledges that are already out there" and to make further investments in global vaccine manufacturing and distribution.

Updated 1 hour ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

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  2. Vaccine: FDA advisory panel endorses J&J COVID vaccine for emergency use — About 20% of U.S. adults have received first vaccine dose, White House says — New data reignites the debate over coronavirus vaccine strategy.
  3. Economy: What's really going on with the labor market.
  4. Local: All adult Minnesotans will likely be eligible for COVID-19 vaccine by summer — Another wealthy Florida community receives special access to COVID-19 vaccine.
  5. Sports: Poll weighs impact of athlete vaccination.
59 mins ago - Health

Biden says it's "not the time to relax" after touring vaccination site

President Biden speaking after visiting a FEMA Covid-19 vaccination facility in Houston on Feb. 26. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said Friday that "it's not the time to relax" coronavirus mitigation efforts and warned that the number of cases and hospitalizations could rise again as new variants of the virus emerge.

Why it matters: Biden, who made the remarks after touring a vaccination site in Houston, echoed CDC director Rochelle Walensky, who said earlier on Friday that while the U.S. has seen a recent drop in cases and hospitalizations, "these declines follow the highest peak we have experienced in the pandemic."