“This is really encouraging and it further demonstrates that a vaccine for Covid is a real probability,” professor Trudie Lang of Oxford University said.
Biotech company Moderna said Monday that early analysis from its Phase 3 trial shows its Covid-19 vaccine is 94.5 percent effective at preventing the infection, offering hope of a second breakthrough in as many weeks.
The news comes a week after pharmaceutical giant Pfizer said early analysis showed its vaccine candidate was more than 90 percent effective.
Moderna also said its vaccine does not require ultracold storage, unlike the candidate announced by Pfizer that has to be stored at temperatures of minus 70 degrees Celsius (-94 Fahrenheit) or below, easing concerns about how to efficiently distribute vaccines to billions of people around the world.
Professor Trudie Lang, the director of the Global Health Network at Oxford University, called Moderna’s announcement “very good news indeed.”
The company said its Phase 3 trial enrolled more than 30,000 participants in the United States, including people over 65 with high risk conditions and from communities of color.
“These early results suggest that there was a representation across different age groups and diverse communities in the protected group,” she told Reuters. “This is really encouraging and it further demonstrates that a vaccine for Covid is a real probability and that having more than one supplier should help assure better and more equitable global availability.”
The announcement raises more hope of ending the coronavirus pandemic that has claimed more than 1.3 million lives around the world and caused global economic turmoil. The news also comes as the U.S. surpassed more than 11 million Covid-19 cases and cases continued to spike in Europe.
“I think this is a really strong step forward to where we want to be about getting control of this outbreak,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the “TODAY” show after Moderna’s announcement, calling the company’s vaccine data “quite impressive.”
The company said the analysis did not reveal any significant safety concerns, and the vaccine was generally well tolerated.
Its 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.
Moderna said its vaccine is expected to remain stable at standard refrigerator temperatures of 2 to 8 degrees Celsius (36 to 46 Fahrenheit) for 30 days, up from the previous estimate of 7 days. The vaccine can remain stable at -20 degrees Celsius (-4 Fahrenheit) for up to six months and at room temperature for 24 hours, the company said.
“These are temperatures commonly found in readily available pharmaceutical freezers and refrigerators which would enable simpler distribution in the United States and other parts of the world,” the company said in a statement.
Fauci projected that by the end of December, there will be doses of vaccine from both Moderna and Pfizer available for individuals “in the higher-risk category.”
But he warned that “the fact that help is on the way should spur us even more” to double down on the public health measures, including wearing masks and practicing social distancing.
Moderna plans to apply for an emergency use authorization with the Food and Drug Administration in the coming weeks.
By the year’s end, it expects to have 20 million doses of the vaccine ready to ship in the U.S. and remains on track to manufacture 500 million to 1 billion doses globally next year.