16 minutes News

16 Minutes #45: Covid Vaccine! Beyond Science via Press Release

Vineeta Agarwala, Jorge Conde, and Sonal Chokshi

Posted November 13, 2020

A vaccine for COVID seems to be (almost) here… or is it? What’s hype/ what’s real beyond the headlines (and beyond the press release), when it comes to the announcement earlier this week from Pfizer and BioNTech that their vaccine candidate was found to be more than 90% effective in preventing COVID-19? Of course, this was just the first interim efficacy analysis — so how close or far are we? What’s the significance of the readout and case numbers? How do we put this (and related approaches, like Moderna’s) in context of all the other (458!) programs in development? And how much should/ shouldn’t we read into this news?

After all, it’s “difficult to evaluate science via press release”, as some say. So in this episode of 16 Minutes with a16z bio general partners Vineeta Agarwala and Jorge Conde in conversation with Sonal Chokshi, we break it all down: the math, the science, and the practical considerations — from “vaccine efficacy” vs. efficiency, from cold chains to distribution, from patients to the system… as well as from the past, to present future of, vaccines.

References and readings cited in this episode