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Moderna Follows Pfizer in Publishing Positive Early Vaccine Data

Nov. 16, 2020
Both Moderna and Pfizers’ COVID-19 vaccine candidates use experimental mRNA technology.

Moderna Inc. announced February 16 that its mRNA-based COVID-19 vaccine has a vaccine efficacy of 94.5%. That figure, according to Moderna, comes from an independent board appointed by the National Institute of Health, which is currently monitoring the drug’s Phase 3 trial.

The initial results show that, of 95 participants who contracted the virus, 90 had received a placebo and 5 had received Moderna’s vaccine. No participants who received Moderna’s vaccine developed a “sever” case of COVID, compared to 11 participants who did after receiving a placebo.

The results come one week after Pfizer and BioNTech released a similar independent review of ongoing vaccine research for its own COVID vaccine: On November 9, Pfizer and BioNTech said their own vaccine candidate was 90% effective at preventing the virus.

Both Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccine use a new technology for vaccine development that uses messenger RNA, typically abbreviated as mRNA, to rally the body’s defenses against a virus. Traditional vaccines, according to a white paper issued by Moderna, are made by cultivating a pathogen, disabling or killing it, and then introducing it to the body. The patient’s immune system then responds to the disabled pathogen’s proteins in a way that lets it make antibodies to fight the virus.

Messenger RNA vaccines, though, skip a step: Instead of requiring vaccine manufacturers to cultivate samples of the virus in a lab, they produce a genetic sequence that mimics the proteins the immune system uses to identify and fight a virus. Since pharmaceuticals don’t have to cultivate any viruses or bacteria, production of an mRNA vaccine would be much faster and more standard than that of a traditional vaccine.

“This is a pivotal moment in the development of our COVID-19 vaccine candidate,” said Stéphane Bancel, Moderna’s CEO. “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,” he said in a release, and went on to thank the study participants, Moderna employees, the NIAID, BARDA, and Operation Warp Speed.

Moderna says it intends to submit an application for emergency use authorization for the vaccine’s U.S. use sometime in the coming weeks, as well as other applications for global use to global regulatory agencies.

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