About a week after Pfizer announced a COVID-19 vaccine that is 90 per cent effective, another United States company has developed the Moderna Inc’s experimental vaccine which has been declared 94.5 per cent effective in preventing COVID-19.
This announcement by the company on Monday is based on interim data from a late-stage trial affirming the vaccine’s potency.
Moderna’s interim analysis was based on 95 infections among trial participants who received the vaccine or a placebo with only five infections occurring in volunteers who received the vaccine mRNA-1273, which is administered in two shots 28 days apart.
The data from Moderna’s trial involving 30,000 volunteers also showed the vaccine prevented cases of severe COVID-19. Of the 95 cases in Moderna’s trial, 11 were severe and all 11 occurred among volunteers who got the placebo.
This development could mean that by December, the United States could have two vaccines authorised for emergency use in December with as many as 60 million doses of vaccine available this year.
Moderna expressed ability to produce about 20 million doses for the United States this year, millions of which the company has already made and is ready to ship if it gets FDA authorization.
The company hopes to produce between 500 million and 1 billion doses in 2021, split between its U.S. and international manufacturing sites, depending in part on demand.
Unlike Pfizer’s vaccine, Moderna’s shot can be stored at normal fridge temperatures, which should make it easier to distribute, according to a Reuters report.
Moderna expects the vaccine to be stable at normal fridge temperatures of 2 to 8 degrees Celsius (36 to 48°F) for 30 days and it can be stored for up to 6 months at -20C.
The vaccines, both developed with a new technology known as messenger RNA (mRNA), represent powerful tools to fight a pandemic.
“We are going to have a vaccine that can stop COVID-19,” Moderna President Stephen Hoge said in an interview, on Monday.
A top US infectious diseases expert, Dr Anthony Fauci said. “The vaccine is really the light at the end of the tunnel.”
He, however, warned against the tendency for people to lose guard, urging that the culture of regular washing of hands and social distancing should continue.
Moderna expects to have enough safety data required for US authorisation in the next week or so and expects to file for emergency use authorisation (EUA) in the coming weeks.
On his part, a professor of pharmacoepidemiology, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Stephen Evans, said:
“We will need much more data and a full report or publication to see if the benefit is consistent across all groups, notably the elderly, but this is definitely encouraging progress.”
Reacting, a professor of immunology and infectious disease at the University of Edinburgh, Eleanor Riley, said, “It is likely that vaccines that prevent symptomatic disease will reduce the duration and level of infectiousness, and thus reduce transmission, but we don’t yet know if this effect will be large enough to make any meaningful difference to the spread of the virus within communities.”