The biotechnology company Moderna announced on Monday that its COVID-19 vaccine candidate is 94.5% effective at preventing infection, based on early data.
The results are “very impressive,” said Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, in an interview with the New York Times.
“I had been saying I would be satisfied with a 75% effective vaccine,” Fauci said. “Aspirationally, you would like to see 90, 95%, but I wasn’t expecting it.”
Researchers test vaccines by inoculating some study participants and giving others placebos, and then observing the two groups to see how many people get sick.
In Moderna’s study, out of the 95 people who contracted the virus, 90 of them were given the placebo and 5 were vaccinated. Of the 11 cases that were considered severe, all of them were in the placebo group. These results show that the vaccine significantly reduced the chances of those who received it from contracting the virus.
Moderna also reported that its vaccine has a longer shelf life under refrigeration and at room temperature than previously thought, which should make it easier to store and use, especially in low-income areas in hot climates.
“This is a pivotal moment in the development of our COVID-19 vaccine candidate,” said Stéphane Bancel, chief executive officer of Moderna, in a press release. “Since early January, we have chased this virus with the intent to protect as many people around the world as possible.”
In 2021, Moderna plans to manufacture up to 1 billion doses globally.
Moderna is the second company to report promising data on a future vaccine. Last week, the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced that its vaccine was more than 90% effective in early trials.
Besides these two companies that have released preliminary results, 10 others are in the process of big Phase 3 trials, the final stage before being approved. Another 55 are in earlier stages of testing.
I am thrilled to hear the good news coming out of @moderna_tx’s #COVID19 vaccine development program. Our companies share a common goal – defeating this dreaded disease – and today we congratulate everyone at Moderna and share in the joy of their encouraging results.— AlbertBourla (@AlbertBourla) November 16, 2020
As the world undergoes an already devastating second wave of the virus, the progress on the COVID-19 vaccine front provides a sense of hope that the worst will soon be over.
In Europe, multiple countries have recently reinstated their lockdowns to prevent further disaster after experiencing surging numbers of infection. The United States is seeing record case numbers on a nearly daily basis, tallying its last million cases in just six days.
Despite the preliminary success of Moderna and Pfizer, health experts anticipate that COVID-19 vaccines will likely not be widely available to the American public until April next year, partly because most vaccines in development will require two doses per person.
Moderna said it would have 20 million doses ready by the end of 2020, while Pfizer said it would have about 50 million by then. Since both require two shots, that would be enough to vaccinate 35 million people — less than the population of California.
As safe and effective vaccines become available, the international community must commit to equitable access, since it is the fastest way to end a global health crisis.
A recent study showed that more than twice as many people could die if wealthy countries gave in to their hoarding tendencies compared to if the eventual vaccines were distributed based on country population.
International coalitions like the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator are working to unite world leaders, global health actors, and private sector organizations to ensure that COVID-19 treatments and vaccines will be made available to everyone around the world.
Launched in April by seven global partners, the ACT-Accelerator is a unique coalition aimed at accelerating global efforts against the COVID-19 pandemic. Its members are working together to develop tests, treatments, and vaccines as quickly as possible, while also strengthening the world’s most fragile health systems.
But the organization desperately needs financial support from governments around the world. You can join us in calling on world leaders to fund the ACT-Accelerator by taking action here.