Moderna’s vaccine provides ‘dash of hope,’ early studies show huge effectiveness

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Photo via Cindy Shebley/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Only one week after Pfizer announced encouraging results in early studies for its coronavirus vaccine, Moderna said on Nov. 16 that its vaccine has proven 94.5% effective in its early study results.

The Associated Press characterized the news as “a dash of hope against the grim backdrop of coronavirus surges in the U.S. and around the world,” adding that the results from Pfizer and Moderna could place both companies on track to seek permission for emergency use in the U.S. before the end of 2020.

Both vaccines rely on the same strategy for activating the immune system, according to CNN. Its article explains that “the vaccines deliver messenger RNA, or mRNA, which is a genetic recipe for making the spikes that sit atop the coronavirus. Once injected, the body’s immune system makes antibodies to the spikes. If a vaccinated person is later exposed to the coronavirus, those antibodies should stand at the ready to attack the virus.”

The CNN report also notes that no vaccine currently on the market uses mRNA.

“There has always been skepticism about mRNA—it’s brand new and would it work?” asked infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci. “What we saw in the trials is there was no real safety concern, and the efficacy is quite impressive. We saw nearly identical results [with Pfizer and Moderna] and it almost really validates the mRNA platform.”

Although Moderna President Stephen Hoge lauded the Moderna trial results as encouraging, he also noted to the AP that it “won’t be Moderna alone that solves this problem. It’s going to require many vaccines” to supply what will be a considerable global demand.

Like the Pfizer vaccine, which was more than 90% effective, Moderna’s vaccine requests two shots taken several weeks apart for the vaccination process to work.

Moderna is prepared to create 20 million doses of the vaccine by the end of 2020, earmarked for the U.S., to add to the 50 million that Pfizer could create in partnership with a German company.

Claims from Moderna about its coronavirus vaccine efficacy has been met with skepticism from scientists before, however. As Forbes reported in May, vaccine experts questioned Moderna’s vaccine trial results then, noting that the company had yet to release significant data to support its claim that its drug successfully produced antibodies in human trials.

This most recent Moderna announcement noted that, of 30,000 recipients involved in its ongoing trial with the mRNA vaccine, only 90 contracted coronavirus. Furthermore, only 11 of those experienced severe cases, and all of those occurred with placebo recipients. Moderna also reported no significant safety concerns from the vaccine itself, with fatigue, muscle aches and injection-site pain among the side effects cited from recipients.

Moderna also has one advantage over Pfizer with its vaccine: It only needs to be refrigerated at minus-20 degrees Celsius and can be stored for 30 days, compared to the minus-75 degrees Celsius and five-day threshold for Pfizer’s.

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Sources: Associated Press, CNN, Forbes

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