Moderna on Monday became the second drugmaker to report better-than-expected findings for a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine in as many weeks, with results from a late-stage trial showing its candidate is nearly 95% effective.
Coming on the heels of last week’s announcement by Pfizer and BioNTech that their shot was more than 90% effective in protecting people from COVID-19, it means the country could have two vaccines authorized for emergency use next month, with some 60 million doses of vaccine available by year’s end.
Moderna’s study, like most other vaccine trials, involved waiting for a pre-set number of its 30,000 subjects to get sick, then seeing how many people who received the shot got sick. Of the 95 cases in its interim analysis, 90 cases of COVID-19 were observed in the placebo group versus five cases in the vaccine group.
Those data impressed Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which worked with the company to develop the vaccine. “That is really quite impressive, and really foretells an impact in this outbreak, together with the vaccine that last week was shown comparatively effective,” Fauci told NBC’s Today Show on Monday morning. Now we have two vaccines that are quite effective – a really strong step.”
Moderna plans to submit an emergency use authorization (EUA) with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in coming weeks, once more complete safety data – expected by the end of this month – is in hand. By year’s end, the company expects to have approximately 20 million doses of its vaccine ready to ship in this country, with 500 million to one billion doses available globally in 2021. Once Moderna and Pfizer ramp up production, the U.S. could have more than enough doses needed to inoculate the country’s 330 million residents by the second or third quarter of next year.
Beyond efficacy, the two vaccines are strikingly comparable in other ways. Both are two-dose shots and are mRNA-based vaccines, meaning they deliver the genetic instructions for the coronavirus’ spike protein, inducing an immune response from the body.
However, Moderna’s vaccine has an edge in that it doesn’t need ultra-cold storage like Pfizer’s. Those differences could dictate how the shots are distributed, with some sites getting Pfizer’s and some getting Moderna’s depending on their storage facilities.
With several other companies in stage 3 vaccine trials, including AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, by next year the country could end up with multiple efficacious vaccines.