Moderna (MRNA: NasdaqGS) released a preview of its COVID-19 vaccine data today, saying its vaccine candidate in early testing results is 94.5% effective and that it has an even longer shelf life in the refrigerator than previously estimated.
Moderna’s early test results now put the small biotech firm ahead of pharmaceutical giant Pfizer (PFE -NYSE), whose candidate with BioNTech (BNTX- NasdaqGS) has proven to be more than 90% effective, according to the companies last week. Pfizer’s vaccine requires extra care in the form of ultra-cold storage to survive for a more extended period.
According to Moderna’s management, its vaccine can survive for 30 days in regular refrigerator temperatures and six months in -20 degrees Celsius. This potentially solves the limitations surrounding who can be shipped the vaccine, such as rural residents, that the Pfizer vaccine faces.
The U.S. Health and Human Services Sec. In a briefing Monday, Alex Azar said that Moderna’s temperature for vaccine stability and the doses per package make it “more amenable” to the delivery needs for community pharmacies.
According to Moderna’s CEO Stéphane Bancel in a statement…
“Since early January, 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,”
Unlike Pfizer, Moderna received federal funding from the National Institutes of Health under the “Operation Warp Speed” to develop the vaccine, giving President Trump and his administration a win amid the election loss.
Secretary Azar said today…
“The Moderna/NIH vaccine candidate is now the second vaccine to show the potential for very high efficacy in Phase 3 trials. Operation Warp Speed has provided about $2 billion in funding and operational support for development, manufacturing, and eventual potential delivery of the Moderna/NIH vaccine.”
Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel says his company plans to file for an emergency use authorization with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration “in the coming weeks.”
According to Bancel, the next steps include figuring out the target populations for the vaccine and working toward vaccines for children by the end of 2021.
According to Operation Warp Speed (OWS), officials said the micro-planning of distribution, including which populations and regions will be prioritized, is still in the planning stages. OWS has already contracted with McKesson (MCK- NYSE), a pharmaceutical and medical supply company, to distribute Moderna’s and other Operation Warp Speed vaccine candidates. Pharmacies across the United States, including CVS (CVS), Walgreens (WBA), Rite Aid (RAD), and retailers like Walmart (WMT) and Kroger (KR) that are capable of admonishing one or more of the vaccines developed to fight the coronavirus pandemic.
While both the frontrunners in the race for a coronavirus vaccine in the United States are mRNA technology-based, the remaining candidates of Operation Warp Speed use entirely different technologies, which prevent OWS from getting more involved on the production side. So the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines have a large scale deliverability advantage.
Moderna’s CEO Stéphane Bancel said technologies for mRNA production are new and not been manufactured on a large-scale before. Swiss company Lonza, which partnered with Moderna, had to retool entire rooms to accommodate the biotech’s needs.
According to Bancel, Moderna anticipates producing 20 million vaccines by the end of the year, with 40 million per month after that. Secretary Azar said today that…
“The exact numbers are hard to predict because of how vaccines are made.”
“This is not like making a pill where there is a mathematical certainty.”
One concern remaining about Pfizer and Moderna’s vaccine candidates while the news is positive is how long the protection lasts. The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said Dr. Anthony Fauci pointed out when commenting on Moderna’s results…
“We do not know at this point what the durability and protection will be.”
Dr. Fauci added that the most optimistic scenario is for the general public to begin getting vaccinated would be April. Meanwhile, the pandemic is wreaking havoc on the United States. Last week saw one million new infections, and the death toll rise to over 250,000. According to the New York Times, the current fatalities rate over the last 14 days averaged 643 a day. Still, many experts are expecting the number of fatalities a day to surge over 2,000 a day based on the sharp climb of infections that are taking place. Fatalities usually follow increases in infections by 14-21 days.
Moderna releases promising vaccine data