A new vaccine that protects against the coronavirus is 94.5% effective, according to early data from the US company Moderna.
The study involved 30,000 people based in the States, with half receiving two doses of the active vaccine spaced four weeks apart, and the rest given placebo injections—a shot of saline with no effect.
The first 95 volunteers to develop COVID-19 symptoms were analyzed: Only five of the cases were in people who were given the vaccine, compared to 90 who received the dummy treatment.
The data also showed that, of the 11 severe coronavirus cases among volunteers, all occurred in the placebo group.
No significant safety concerns have been reported: A review of solicited adverse events indicates that the vaccine was generally well tolerated among participants.
Moderna plans to apply for Emergency Use Authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration in the coming weeks, and expects to have 20 million doses ready to ship in the US by the end of 2020. According to a statement released from the biotechnology firm on Monday, it also plans to have up a billion doses ready for use around the globe by the end of 2021.
With similar news coming from Pfizer last week, the data from Moderna adds to a growing belief that vaccines could help end the pandemic that’s gripped the world since March.
Both companies have developed messenger RNA vaccines that take a similar approach, where part of COVID-19’s genetic code is injected so the immune system can be trained to produce antibodies and T-cells that attack the virus.
The preliminary data released by both firms so far is comparable, with around 90% protection from Pfizer’s vaccine, and around 95% in Moderna’s—though as both trials are still going, final numbers could change.
One key difference? Moderna’s vaccine appears to be easier to store. Remaining stable at -4°F for up to half a year, it can be kept in a regular fridge for up to four weeks. Pfizer’s vaccine, on the other hand, requires being stored at less than 80 degrees below zero, though it can be kept in a fridge for up to five days.
Having more than one available vaccine is going to be important in ending the pandemic. According to Wired science writer Adam Rogers, “All the Covid vaccine candidates work in different ways, and none will be perfect for everyone. It’ll take a slate of options to help cover us all.”
Looking to the future
“These are obviously very exciting results,” American physician and immunologist Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN. “It’s just as good as it gets—94.5% is truly outstanding.”
Fauci stated that high-risk groups—such as health care workers, people with underlying health conditions, and the elderly—could expect to get the first COVID-19 vaccinations towards the end of December. From there, he said, “I think that everybody else will start to get vaccinated towards the end of April… And that will go into May, June, July. It will take a couple of months to do.”
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