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Hope for in-person meetings as vaccine shows 90% success rate

A vaccine that can prevent more than 90 per cent of people from getting Covid-19 could mean the return of in-person conferences and events sooner than most people had anticipated.

Early analysis shows the jab – developed by Pfizer and BioNTech – is effective and safe, and the companies plan to apply for emergency approval to use the vaccine by the end of the month.

Health experts had previously said that a COVID-19 vaccine with an efficacy rating of between 75 per cent would be deemed a success, so 90 per cent has surpassed those expectations.

No other vaccine has been developed so quickly and the results so far are based only on the first 94 patients to develop Covid-19, so experts, while excited by the news, are urging caution.

Although Pfizer and BioNTech said they hoped to be able produce 50 million doses this year and around 1.3 billion doses next year organising distribution of the vaccine could be challenging.

It is not known yet if the vaccine works on those most seriously ill from the disease or if those who have been vaccinated against the virus can still carry – and potentially – spread Covid-19.

Nevertheless, Pfizer and BioNTech described it as a “great day for science and humanity” and one prominent UK scientist has even suggested life could be ‘back to normal by Spring’.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s The World at One Sir John Bell, regius professor of medicine at Oxford University, said: “I am probably the first guy to say that, but I will say that with some confidence.”

Dr Albert Bourla, chairman of Pfizer, said: “We are a significant step closer to providing people around the world with a breakthrough to help bring an end to this global health crisis.”

Prof Ugur Sahin, one of the founders of BioNTech, described the results as a ‘milestone’.

For the business events industry, this is welcome news. With the efficacy of lockdown in question, developing a vaccine is probably the most important step towards to re-opening of the sector.

Stocks of listed companies from the events sector reacted to the news with huge gains. Informa’s share price, for example, closed 22.2% higher at £5.58p a share, its highest level since March. In contrast shares in Zoom had fallen 15 per cent at the time of writing to $4.16 a share.

“While we in our sector are convinced that people are eager to return to the show floors, and our research shows the same, today’s reactions of the stock markets show the investors’ confidence that people are eager to resume face to face events”, said Kai Hattendorf, Managing Director / CEO of UFI, the global association for the exhibitions industry.