Moderna Inc’s experimental vaccine was 94.5 percent effective in preventing COVID-19 based on interim data from a late-stage trial, the company said yesterday, becoming the second US drugmaker to report results that far exceed expectations.
Together with Pfizer Inc’s vaccine, which is also more than 90 percent effective, and pending more safety data and regulatory review, the US could have two vaccines authorized for emergency use next month with as many as 60 million doses of vaccine available this year.
Next year, the US government could have access to more than 1 billion doses just from the two vaccine makers, more than needed for the country’s 330 million residents.
The vaccines, both developed with new technology known as messenger RNA (mRNA), represent powerful tools to fight a pandemic that has infected 54 million people worldwide and killed 1.3 million.
The news also comes at a time when COVID-19 cases are soaring, hitting new records in the US and pushing some European countries back into lockdowns.
“We are going to have a vaccine that can stop COVID-19,” Moderna president Stephen Hoge said in a telephone interview.
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 US 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,” he said.
Moderna expects to have enough safety data required for US authorization in the next week or so and the company expects to file for emergency use authorization in the coming weeks.
A key advantage of Moderna’s 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°C to 8°C for 30 days and it can be stored for up to six months at minus-20°C.
Pfizer’s vaccine must be shipped and stored at minus-70°C. 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 Moderna’s trial involving 30,000 volunteers also showed that the vaccine prevented cases of severe COVID-19, a question that still remains with the Pfizer vaccine.
Moderna expects to produce about 20 million doses for the US this year, millions of which it has already made and is ready to ship if it gets US Food and Drug Administration authorization.
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