Moderna Inc became the second United States pharmaceutical company to release data from a large study of its experimental vaccine, saying it was 94.5 percent effective against COVID-19.
Moderna says that it will be submitting for an Emergency Use Authorization of its vaccine candidate based on the results within the coming weeks, looking to get approval from the FDA to use it in emergency circumstances ahead of a full and final approval.
Pfizer's vaccine must be shipped and stored at -70C, the sort of temperature typical of an Antarctic winter.
"We may be in a place with a vaccine that has a big impact on the prevention of severe disease", Moderna Chief Executive Stéphane Bancel said in an interview.
A technician inspects vials of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) vaccine candidate BNT162b2 at a Pfizer manufacturing site in manufacturing site in St. Louis, Missouri, U.S.in an undated photograph.
Dr. Stephen Hoge is president of the Massachusetts-based Moderna.
"Given the general similarity of the vaccine target and the immunological responses observed for all vaccines, these data generally suggest that vaccination will protect against severe illness and thereby should protect people from needing hospitalization or from dying from COVID", says Penny Ward, from King's College London.
"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.
The Moderna results are drawn from a clinical trial conducted in the USA involving 30,000 participants. "So I think this is a really strong step forward to where we want to be about getting control of this outbreak".
In the Phase 3-that is, late-stage-study of its vaccine, people at about 100 USA locations were given two doses of the vaccine or a placebo, four weeks apart.
Vaccine candidates are tested by injecting one group of participants with the formulation and another group with a placebo, and observing how healthy they remain over a few weeks. The study also showed that 11 cases of severe COVID-19 infection happened in the placebo group while no severe cases were reported from the group that received the vaccine.
Most side effects from the experimental vaccine were mild to moderate. That triggers an immune response created to protect vaccinated people if they are later exposed to the actual virus.
Moderna's initial data were reviewed by a committee of independent researchers monitoring the study.
The study is continuing, and Moderna acknowledged the protection rate might change as more COVID-19 infections are detected and added to the calculations.
Both these and Pfizer's vaccine candidate, which it developed in partnership with BioNTech, are mRNA-based vaccines. Traditional vaccines usually contain an inactive or weakened virus. mRNA vaccines do not contain the coronavirus itself.
For the second time this month, there's promising news from a COVID-19 vaccine candidate: Moderna said Monday its shots provide strong protection, a dash of hope against the grim backdrop of coronavirus surges in the US and around the world. This makes it easier to transport. That is about the temperature of an Antarctic winter.
The federal government may decide to vaccinate health-care workers and first responders first, followed by other segments of the population in phases until more doses are made next year.
With Pfizer and Moderna now saying their vaccines showed at least 90 per cent efficacy in large-scale stage three trials, Health Minister Christine Elliott said there is a team working away at how to best distribute vaccines once they arrive.