Moderna vaccine is only the second drug in the U.S to have results that far exceed expectations. According to reports by the company earlier today, Moderna Inc’s experimental vaccine was 94.5% effective in preventing COVID-19 based on interim data from a late-stage trial.
You would recall that there is the Pfizer Inc’s vaccine already, which is also more than 90% effective, and while we wait on more safety data and regulatory review. What this simply implies is that by December, the United States could have two vaccines authorized for use and as many as 60 million doses of vaccine available this year.
By 2021, the U.S. government could have access to well over 1 billion doses just from the two vaccine makers. That’s way more than needed for the country’s entire 330 million population.
This great news couldn’t have come at a better time than now when COVID-19 cases are soaring, hitting new records in the United States and pushing a lot of European countries back into lockdowns.
While speaking in a telephone interview, Moderna President, Stephen Hoge siad “We are going to have a vaccine that can stop COVID-19”
Moderna’s interim analysis was based on 95 infections among trial participants who received either a placebo or the vaccine. Of those, only five infections occurred in those who received the vaccine, which is administered in two shots 28 days apart.
“This news from Moderna is tremendously exciting and considerably boosts optimism that we will have a choice of good vaccines in the next few months,” said Peter Openshaw, professor of experimental medicine at Imperial College London.
“This latest press release is based on a study of 30,000 U.S. adults, including many high-risk or elderly persons. This gives us confidence that the results are relevant in the people who are most at risk of COVID-19.”
Moderna expects to have enough safety data required for U.S. authorization in the next week or so and the company expects to file for emergency use authorization (EUA) in the coming weeks.
Advantages of Moderna vaccine
A key advantage of Moderna vaccine is that it does not need ultra-cold storage like Pfizer’s, making it easier to distribute. Moderna expects it 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.
Pfizer’s vaccine must be shipped and stored at -70C, the sort of temperature typical of an Antarctic winter. It can be stored for up to five days at standard refrigerator temperatures or for up to 15 days in a thermal shipping box.
The data from the trial of Moderna vaccine involving 30,000 volunteers also showed the vaccine prevented cases of severe COVID-19, a question that still remains with the Pfizer vaccine. Of the 95 cases in Moderna’s trial, 11 were severe and all 11 occurred among volunteers who got the placebo.
Moderna, part of the U.S. government’s Operation Warp Speed program, expects 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.
“Assuming we get an emergency use authorization, we’ll be ready to ship through Warp Speed almost in hours,” Hoge said. “So it could start being distributed instantly.”
The 95 cases of COVID-19 included several key groups who are at increased risk for severe disease, including 15 cases in adults aged 65 and older and 20 in participants from racially diverse groups.
Possible side effects of the Moderna vaccine?
Most side effects were mild to moderate. A significant proportion of volunteers, however, experienced more severe aches and pains after taking the second dose, including about 10% who had fatigue severe enough to interfere with daily activities while another 9% had severe body aches. Most of these complaints were generally short-lived, Moderna said.
Its data provide further validation of the promising but previously unproven mRNA platform, which turns the human body into a vaccine factory by coaxing cells to make certain virus proteins that the immune system sees as a threat and mounts a response against.
The United States has the world’s highest known number of COVID-19 cases and deaths with more than 11 million infections and nearly 250,000 deaths.
The Trump Administration has primarily relied on the development of vaccines and treatments as its response to the pandemic. Moderna has received nearly $1 billion in research and development funding from the U.S. government and has a $1.5 billion deal for 100 million doses. The U.S. government also has an option for another 400 million doses.
The company hopes to produce between 500 million and 1 billion doses of Moderna vaccine in 2021, split between its U.S. and international manufacturing sites, dependent in part on demand.
The U.S. government has said COVID-19 vaccines will be provided free to Americans, whether they have health insurance, are uninsured or are covered by government health programs such as Medicare.
The world might just be finally be rid of Covid-19 and we have the Moderna vaccine to thank for it!