Another Covid-19 vaccine has been observed to have remarkably high effectiveness. This new vaccine is made by using the same previously unproven technology which was developed by Pfizer and BioNTech. An Independent Board has monitored Moderna’s 30,000 people vaccine trial who recently reported the high effectiveness rate of the newly developed vaccine. The statistics showed that only five people in the vaccinated group developed COVID-19. This shows the efficacy of 94.5% as per the company. Although there might be a discrepancy between the efficacy rate of the clinical trial and the actual effective rate considering the factor that the clinical conditions do not translate into similarly high level or real-world protection, the success rate surely indicates that if widely distributed, it has the potential to stop the pandemic as it is effective enough.
There were two more brands that collaborated and were claiming a high rate of efficiency of their developed vaccine. The first, manufactured by Pfizer and BioNTech whose efficacy was about 90%, though they failed to include the number of COVID-19 cases in the vaccinated and placebo groups and they did not provide much information post-trial.
Moderna on the other hand, filled the public in with the missing information about the mRNA vaccine which heightened optimism amongst public health experts, thus the US FDA (Food and Drug Administration) might soon authorize the widespread use of this COVID-19 vaccine. The brand offered compelling evidence that its candidate contributed in not just preventing symptomatic disease but also providing the main endpoint for both the trials. The statistics shared by the company reflected that 11 people in the trial’s placebo arm developed severe cases of COVID-19 while no one was reported to get COVID-19 in the vaccinated group. Another analysis suggests that the vaccine appeared to work equally well in all the populations studied which also included ethnic minority groups, elderly people, and people dealing with pre-existing conditions such as diabetes, breathing issues, etc. which makes them more vulnerable to the disease.
Officials are expecting to give out doses of one or both vaccines to people at the highest risk from the virus that causes COVID-19, SARS-CoV-2 by late next month if their current calculations are accurate. Despite the excellent results, the vaccine provides people with protection against the disease but that does not guarantee that an individual is immune from infection or is not susceptible to pass the virus on to other people around them.
There are multiple questions being raised about the vaccine such as the permanency of the vaccine’s protection, its safety, approval from FDA, and the biggest of all being the challenge of rapid production and distribution of billions of doses since the RNA can be degraded at warm temperature hence the vaccine must be kept frozen until days before its usage which requires a “cold chain” for its transport from manufacturing plants till pharmacies.
Moderna is one of the pioneers of mRNA technology worldwide and is hence attracting numerous investors to fulfill its needs of delivery of RNAs which make up the therapeutic proteins which elicit a protective immune response. There was an Operation Warp Speed in April where the U.S. government made an effort to develop a portfolio of COVID-19 vaccines and rapidly proceed to the next stage which was conducting efficacy trials. For this they invested $1 billion in Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine R&D. Months later, Warp Speed committed another $1.5 billion to Moderna to purchase 100 million doses of its candidate and $1.9 billion to Pfizer for the same amount of its product, which was originally developed at BioNtech, a company that has focused on treating cancer with mRNA.
Whereas the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine uses 30 micrograms of mRNA, Moderna’s contains 100. Both vaccines require two doses separated by several weeks. A key difference is that the Pfizer/BioNTech candidate must be stored at –70°C, whereas Moderna’s can be kept at –20°C. Moderna revealed that once thawed, its vaccine can remain stable for 30 days at 2°C to 8°C, home refrigerator temperatures. In much of the world, maintaining a cold chain for a –70°C vaccine presents formidable challenges, and even –20°C presents obstacles (as stated in Moderna’s information release). Moderna Aims to produce 500 million to 1 billion doses in 2021.
Now another hurdle in the process is the cost. Not many countries can afford the vaccine due to its extremely high cost. To help solve this issue, the company is discussing with COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access Facility which is a non-profit aimed to help resource-limited countries in purchasing the vaccine at a discounted price.
Thanks to this development in science and technology there is still hope for a cure from this pandemic causing virus.
Image source: Chronicle Herald