COVID-19: Moderna vaccine shows 94.5 per cent effectiveness

Updated: 18 November, 2020 08:23 IST | Agencies | New York

If FDA allows emergency use of shots, there'll be limited supplies by year end

Business owners and local leaders protest against new COVID-19 regulations in San Diego, California, on Monday. Pic/AFP
Business owners and local leaders protest against new COVID-19 regulations in San Diego, California, on Monday. Pic/AFP

A second experimental COVID-19 vaccine — this one from Moderna Inc. — yielded extraordinarily strong early results Monday, another badly needed dose of hope as the pandemic enters a terrible new phase.

Moderna said its vaccine appears to be 94.5 per cent effective, according to preliminary data from an ongoing study. A week ago, competitor Pfizer Inc. announced its own vaccine looked 90 per cent effective — news that puts both firms on track to seek nod within weeks for emergency use in the US. The results are "truly striking," said Dr Anthony Fauci, the US government's top infectious-diseases expert.

A vaccine can't come fast enough, as virus cases topped 11 million in the US over the weekend — 1 million of them recorded in just the past week. The outbreak has killed over 1.3 million people worldwide, over 2,46,000 of them in the US.

Both vaccines require two shots, given several weeks apart. US officials said they hope to have about 20 million Moderna doses and another 20 million of the vaccine made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech to use in late December. Dr. Stephen Hoge, Moderna's president, welcomed the "really important milestone" but said having similar results from two different companies is what's most reassuring.

"That should give us all hope that actually a vaccine is going to be able to stop this pandemic and hopefully get us back to our lives," Hoge told The Associated Press. He added: "It won't be Moderna alone that solves this problem. It's going to require many vaccines" to meet the global demand.

If the Food and Drug Administration allows emergency use of Moderna's or Pfizer's candidate, there will be limited, rationed supplies before the end of the year.

Moderna's vaccine is being studied in 30,000 volunteers who received either the real thing or a dummy shot. On Sunday, an independent monitoring board examined 95 infections that were recorded after volunteers' second shot. Only five of the illnesses were in people given the vaccine.

The study is continuing, and Moderna acknowledged the protection rate might change as more COVID-19 infections are detected. Also, it's too soon to know how long protection lasts. Both cautions apply to Pfizer's vaccine as well.

But Moderna's independent monitors reported some additional, promising tidbits: All 11 severe COVID-19 cases were among placebo recipients, and there were no significant safety concerns. The main side effects were fatigue, muscle aches and injection-site pain after the second dose.

Austria starts tough lockdown

Austria has started a new tough lockdown meant to slow the surging spread of the coronavirus. As of Tuesday, people are only allowed to leave their homes to purchase groceries, to go to jobs deemed essential, to exercise or to help people who need assistance.

New curbs ahead of Thanksgiving

From California to Pennsylvania, governors and mayors across the US are ratcheting up curbs amid the record-shattering resurgence of the virus that is all but certain to get worse because of holiday travel and family gatherings over Thanksgiving. Leaders are closing businesses or curtailing hours and other operations, and they are ordering or imploring people to stay home to help stem rising infections.

Who will get the COVID-19 vaccine shots first?

No decision has been made, but the consensus among many experts in the US and globally is that health care workers should be first, said Sema Sgaier of the Surgo Foundation, a non-profit group working on vaccine allocation issues.

An expert panel advising the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention is also considering giving high priority to workers in essential industries, people with certain medical conditions and people aged 65 and older. It will look at clinical trial data on side effects and how people of various ages, ethnicities and health statuses responded, to prioritise shots.

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First Published: 18 November, 2020 08:23 IST

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