More good news emerged Monday morning 16 November 2020, in the quest for a COVID-19 vaccine. Moderna, the biotech firm based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, released data that show their vaccine candidate is 94.5% effective in preventing infection. Only a week prior, Pfizer released its own exciting announcement about a potential vaccine with an efficacy rate of about 90%.
But Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading infectious disease expert, said that Moderna’s results are the most promising yet. “These are obviously very exciting results,” Fauci said of the Moderna data. “It’s just as good as it gets — 94.5% is truly outstanding.”
About the Trial
Moderna says that analysis of its late-stage clinical trial, which it calls “COVE,” relied on about 30,000 human subjects. Half of them received a placebo injection, a shot of saline that has no medical effect. Of this group, 90 people developed COVID in the following months, with 11 developing severe cases.
Meanwhile, Moderna scientists gave the other 15,000 participants a dose of their mRNA-1273 vaccine candidate. But only five people from this group developed COVID in the months that followed, and none of them became severely ill. As a result, Moderna scientists determined that their vaccine was 94.5% effective in preventing infection.
The leaders of Moderna are now celebrating the success of their trials. The company’s CEO, Stephane Bancel, called the results “a pivotal moment in the development of our COVID-19 vaccine candidate.”
“Since early January,” says Bancel, “we have chased this virus with the intent to protect as many people around the world as possible. All along, we have known that each day matters. This positive interim analysis from our Phase 3 study has given us the first clinical validation that our vaccine can prevent COVID-19 disease, including severe disease.”
Additionally, Moderna noted no serious side effects from the vaccine trial, putting it on track for final approval. Bancel says his company will now apply for emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration. Such approval will allow for the swift disbursement of the vaccine once final safety data become available at the end of the month.
Just last week, Dr. Fauci said that a vaccine could be available for high-risk populations by the New Year, though large-scale disbursement will take much longer. In addition to Moderna and Pfizer, other vaccines have reached late-stage trials at Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, and Novavax.
Pfizer, which reported their vaccine candidate was 90% effective recently, has a disadvantage compared to Moderna’s candidate. The Pfizer vaccine requires storage at -100 degrees to remain effective, which complicates distribution. By contrast, Moderna’s candidate can be stored at -4 degrees during transit and it can last up to 30 days in a standard refrigerator.