Moderna vaccine achieves breakthrough by showing 94.5% efficacy

New York: For the second time in the span of 10 days after the US elections, there's a COVID-19 gamechanger on the horizon with US pharma giant Moderna announcing on Monday that its vaccine has shown 94.5 per cent efficacy in preliminary data from the company's ongoing study.

Moderna's vaccine candidate, created in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health, has 30,000 volunteers in its fold. The population received either the real vaccine or a dummy shot.

The independent monitoring board which reports on safety data found that among 95 infections recorded, 90 came from the placebo group and only five from the vaccine group, "resulting in a point estimate of vaccine efficacy of 94.5 per cent".

Another bright spot: All 11 "severe cases" occurred in the placebo group and none in the mRNA-1273 vaccinated group.

Pfizer and BioNTech announced 90 per cent efficacy exactly a week ago. Taken together these two vaccines are firmly on course to seek emergency use authorisation from the US Food and Drug Administration if results hold out in final study results due soon.

Both Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech use the 'mRNA' technology which means the vaccine is not embedded with the virus itself and therefore no risk of catching COVID-19 from the shot itself. The vaccine is infused with a piece of genetic code that trains our immune system to recognize the spike protein on the surface of the virus - a lethal signature of the coronavirus.

Both Pfizer and Moderna are based on a two-shot model, and both vaccines require a phenomenal ramp up of extreme sub-zero cold chain storage. Moderna is planning for about 20 million doses in the US by end December while Pfizer expects to have about 50 million doses ready before the new year comes around.

Pfizer's final results are due third week of November - around the time of the Thanksgiving holiday.

COVID cases crossed 11 million in the US by November 15, with the latest 1 million coming in a week. The country's death toll is the world's highest - more than 246,000 at last count.

Roughly 20 million people could be vaccinated against coronavirus in December, the chief of the Donald Trump administration's vaccine coordination programme has indicated. Anywhere from 25 to 30 million people could be vaccinated each month after that.

The US is working with a portfolio of six vaccines, using three different platform technologies and two candidates from each platform: messenger RNA, live viral vectors and recombinant protein.

Pfizer and Moderna's vaccines use the messenger RNA platform, Johnson and Johnson and AstraZeneca in partnership with Oxford University are on the live vector path while Novavax and Sanofi/ GlaxoSmithKline are building out their vaccine candidates on the recombinant protein platform.

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