Based on interim evidence from a late-stage study, Moderna Inc’s experimental vaccine is 94.5 percent successful in preventing Covid-19, the company said on Monday, becoming the second US drugmaker to announce findings that far exceed estimates.
The United States may have two vaccines approved for emergency use in December, with as much as 60 million doses of vaccine available Moderna this year along with Pfizer Inc’s vaccine, which is still more than 90pc effective, and awaiting more safety evidence and regulatory review.
The vaccines, both produced with modern messenger RNA (mRNA) technologies, are effective instruments for battling a pandemic that has affected 54 million people globally and killed 1.3 million people.
Unlike the Pfizer vaccine, the shot of Moderna can be kept at regular fridge temperatures, which should make it easier to administer, a vital consideration as cases of Covid-19 are soaring, breaking new levels in the US and moving back into lockdowns in several European countries.
In a telephone interview, Moderna President Stephen Hoge said We are going to have a vaccine that will stop Covid-19.”
The interim study of Moderna was focused on 95 infections among participants in the trial who obtained the vaccine or a placebo. In volunteers who got the vaccine mRNA-1273, which is given in two shots 28 days apart, only five infections occurred.
Dr Anthony Fauci, the leading US authority on infectious diseases, said The vaccine is always the light at the end of the tunnel.” He encouraged Americans not to let their guard down and continue to wash their hands and be careful about social distances.
In the next week or so, Moderna expects to have adequate safety data needed for US authorization and expects to apply for emergency usage authorization (EUA) in the coming weeks.
As European stocks and Wall Street futures rose, the company’s shares, which have more than quadrupled this year, surged as much as 12pc to a record high. Benchmark S&P 500 futures rose 1.3pc, stopping just short of a lifetime peak, while since March 5, the pan-European STOXX 600 has reached its highest.
Shares of Pfizer and its partner BioNTech dropped 2.6pc and 12.9pc, respectively, while AstraZeneca of Britain, which has yet to report any data from its late-stage vaccine trials, dropped 1.1pc at 1425 GMT.
The results from Moderna further confirm the exciting but previously unproven mRNA platform that converts the human body into a vaccine factory by coaxing cells to generate viral proteins that are seen as a threat and assault by the immune system.
Moderna expects the vaccine to be stable for 30 days at normal fridge temperatures of 2 to 8 degrees Celsius (36 to 48F) and can be kept at -20C for up to 6 months.
The Pfizer vaccine must be shipped and processed at a temperature of -70C, the average temperature of the Antarctic winter. It can be kept at the normal refrigerator temperature for up to five days, or in a thermal shipping package for up to 15 days.
The Moderna trial results involving 30,000 volunteers also revealed that the vaccine stopped serious Covid-19 cases, a concern that still persists with the Pfizer vaccine. Of the 95 cases in Moderna’s trial, 11 were extreme and all 11 occurred among placebo-placed volunteers.
Moderna, part of the Operation Warp Speed programme of the US government plans this year to manufacture around 20 million doses for the US, millions of which the company has already produced and is ready to ship if it receives FDA approval.
“We’ll be able to ship through Warp Speed in almost hours, if we get an emergency usage permit,” Hoge said. “So it will immediately start being circulated.”
The 95 cases of Covid-19 involved many primary populations at elevated risk of serious illness, including 15 cases in adults 65 years of age and older and 20 cases of participants of culturally mixed groups.
Read Also: Young people made electric cars out of junk
“In order to see if the benefit is consistent among all populations particularly the elderly, we will need much more evidence and a complete report or publication, but this is hopefully promising improvement,” said Stephen Evans, professor of pharmacoepidemiology, London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine.
One unclear thing about this vaccine, and all the others currently being studied, is whether it will stop the spread of Covid-19.
Eleanor Riley, Professor of Immunology and Infectious Disease at the University of Edinburgh, said It is possible that vaccinations that avoid symptomatic disease will decrease the length and level of infection and therefore reduce transmission, although we do not yet know if this impact will be substantial enough to make any noticeable difference to the dissemination of the virus within populations.