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Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine 94.5% effective

Following Pfizer's announcement , the US could have two vaccines for emergency use as early as next month

Moderna's experimental vaccine is 94.5 per cent 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's vaccine, which is also more than 90 per cent effective, and pending more safety data and regulatory review, the US could have two vaccines authorised for emergency use next month, with as many as 60 million doses of vaccine available.

Next year, the US government could have access to more than one 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, represent 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 cases are soaring, hitting new records in the US and pushing some European countries back into lockdowns. A number of Asian countries are also witnessing a spike in cases.

"We're going to have a vaccine that can stop Covid-19," Moderna president Stephen Hoge said.

PLACEBO

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.

"Having more than one source of an effective vaccine will increase the global supply and, with luck, help us all to get back to something like normal sometime in 2021," said Professor of immunology and infectious disease Eleanor Riley at the University of Edinburgh.

Moderna expects to have enough safety data required for US authorisation in the next week or so and the firm expects to file for emergency use authorisation 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 to 8 deg C for 30 days and it can be stored for up to six months at -20 deg C.

Pfizer's vaccine must be shipped and stored at -70 deg 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 the vaccine prevented cases of severe Covid-19, a question that still remains with the Pfizer vaccine.

Moderna, part of the US government's Operation Warp Speed programme, expects to produce about 20 million doses for the US this year, millions of which the company has already made and is ready to ship if it gets authorisation from the US Food and Drug Administration.

Most of the vaccine's 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 per cent who had fatigue severe enough to interfere with daily activities. - REUTERS

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