Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine in 500 words

USA & World

Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine in 500 words

United States pharmaceutical firm Moderna has raised hopes in the global fight against the coronavirus announcing early analyses suggest its COVID-19 vaccine is 94.5 percent effective.

The result from the large-scale clinical trial is in the same league as drugmakers Pfizer and BioNTech, which announced last week their jointly developed vaccine was 90 percent effective in preventing the disease.

As efforts bear fruit to contain the disease that has killed more than 1.31 million people and ravaged livelihoods globally, here is what you need to know about the promising vaccine.

What’s been announced?

Moderna said its vaccine appears to be 94.5 percent effective, according to preliminary data from the company’s continuing study.

Dr Stephen Hoge, Moderna’s president, welcomed the “really important milestone” but said having similar results from two different companies is what is most reassuring.

“It won’t be Moderna alone that solves this problem. It’s going to require many vaccines” to meet the global demand, Hoge told The Associated Press.

Moderna said last month it was confident it could receive emergency approval for its vaccine from US authorities in December.

Still, if the Food and Drug Administration allows emergency use of Moderna’s or Pfizer’s candidates, there will be limited supplies before the end of the year. Both require people to get two shots, several weeks apart.

Moderna expects to have about 20 million doses, earmarked for the US, by the end of 2020.

How does it work?

Moderna’s vaccine, created with the National Institutes of Health, is being studied in 30,000 volunteers who received either the real vaccination or a dummy shot.

Its first analysis was based on 95 cases of COVID-19, 90 of which received a placebo with five receiving the vaccine. There were 11 severe cases in the placebo group and none among those that got the vaccine.

The 95 cases included 15 adults aged 65 or over, and 20 participants from diverse communities including 12 people who identified as Hispanic, four Black Americans, three Asian Americans and one person who was multi-racial.

The main side effects were fatigue, muscle aches and injection-site pain after the vaccine’s second dose at rates that Hoge characterised as more common than with flu shots but on par with others such as the shingles vaccine.

Both Moderna’s shots and the Pfizer-BioNTech candidate are so-called mRNA vaccines, a new technology. They are not made with the coronavirus itself, meaning there is no chance anyone could catch it from the shots. Instead, the vaccine contains a piece of genetic code that trains the immune system to recognise the spiked protein on the surface of the virus.

What’s next?

Moderna, which went public in 2018, has received nearly $1bn in research and development funding from the US government and has a deal worth $1.5bn to supply 100 million doses.

The US government has an option for another 400 million doses and Moderna also has supply deals with other countries.

Both the Moderna and Pfizer shots are frozen but at different temperatures. Moderna said once thawed, its doses can last longer in a refrigerator than initially thought, up to 30 days.