GOP senator in Pfizer trial urges trust in Covid vaccines: ‘This is how we bring an end to this pandemic’

Republican Sen. Steve Daines of Montana on Friday urged Americans to have confidence in the coronavirus vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech, relying on his experience as a participant in the companies’ phase three clinical trial.

The U.S. pharmaceutical giant and German biotech firm said earlier Friday they intended to apply for emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, making them the first companies to do so for a Covid-19 vaccine. Final data released this week showed the vaccine was 95% effective in preventing the disease. The FDA’s review process is expected to take a few weeks.

“This is great news for the American people. This is how we bring an end to this pandemic,” Daines said on “The Exchange.” “The reason my wife and I participated in it is we want to help build confidence and trust in these vaccines.”

Daines said he did not experience major side effects after he received his first inoculation in the trial in late August. Pfizer’s vaccine requires two doses. While participants in double-blind studies are not told whether they receive the vaccine or a placebo, Daines said he has reason to believe he actually got the experimental candidate.

“It reminded me of getting the flu shot. It was virtually painless, the vaccine itself. I had a little bit of a sore arm for a couple days, and then I had slight chills the day after that lasted about a few hours. They resolved, and I felt completely fine the next day,” said Daines, who won reelection earlier this month. “That was probably an indicator that I had the vaccine.”

Daines also said he later tested positive for Covid-19 antibodies, which can help build immunity and prevent reinfection. Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine produces neutralizing antibodies.

Daines is the second Republican senator this week to announce his participation in vaccine trials. On Tuesday, Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio told CNBC he had enrolled in Johnson & Johnson’s phase three trial. The men shared similar motivations for signing up.

“It’s one thing to have the vaccines, which I think will be ready by the end of this year, so really in just a month and a half, but we’ve got to be sure that people are willing to be vaccinated,” Portman said. “So the reason I participated in this trial was because I think the vaccines are so important.”

The news of Pfizer and BioNTech’s FDA submission arrives at a critical moment in the U.S. coronavirus pandemic. New daily infections have risen to record levels and so have hospitalizations for Covid-19 patients. On Thursday, deaths reached a level not seen since early May.

Multiple federal agencies have begun telling workers they could be immunized with the Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer and BioNtech — or Moderna, which is nearing an FDA application — in as little as eight weeks, CNBC reported Friday, citing a person with knowledge of the plans.

Any coronavirus vaccine approved would be limited in quantity at first. Health-care workers, along with elderly people and those who have underlying health conditions, are likely to receive the vaccine initially. As soon as the FDA issues approval, “within 24 hours, the vaccines will be in the immunization sites and people will be immunized,” Operation Warp Speed advisor Dr. Moncef Slaoui told CNBC on Friday.