President Donald Trump tweeted Friday that another vaccine to battle COVID-19 has been approved.
“Moderna vaccine overwhelmingly approved. Distribution to start immediately,” Trump wrote on Twitter.
Moderna vaccine overwhelmingly approved. Distribution to start immediately.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 18, 2020
While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has made no formal statement about the Moderna vaccine, a panel of independent experts convened by the FDA voted 20-0 to recommend authorization the vaccine for emergency use. A formal approval is expected on Friday, which would clear the way for nearly 6 million doses to be shipped around the country.
“Dr. Rachel Zhang, a researcher in the F.D.A.’s office of vaccines research and review, said that the agency found the vaccine worked equally well in different groups of volunteers defined by race or ethnicity, gender or age,” The New York Times reported. “She also said that the data from the trial hinted that protection from the vaccine starts to emerge soon after people get the first dose. However, she cautioned that there wasn’t enough data to come to a clear conclusion.”
Moderna’s vaccine would be the second approved by the FDA. Last week, the agency approved one made by Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech. Moderna says its data showed their vaccine was 95% effective in its late-stage clinical trial, the same as Pfizer’s efficacy rate. The Moderna vaccine was developed in conjunction with the Trump administration’s Operation Warp Speed.
“We believe that our vaccine will provide a new and powerful tool that may change the course of this pandemic and help prevent severe disease, hospitalizations and death,” Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel said in a statement. Bancel added that 20 million doses will be available by the end of the year.
A key advantage of Moderna’s vaccine is that it does not need sub-zero storage like Pfizer’s, which needs to be stored at -94 degrees Fahrenheit.
A third vaccine is also in the pipeline. AstraZeneca and Oxford University on Nov. 23 said their jointly created COVID-19 vaccine has proven to be up to 90% effective, and the makers claims will be easier to distribute.
“These findings show that we have an effective vaccine that will save many lives,” said Oxford University professor Andrew Pollard, who served as the lead investigator for the drug’s trials. “Because the vaccine can be stored at fridge temperatures, it can be distributed around the world using the normal immunization distribution system. And so our goal … to make sure that we have a vaccine that was accessible everywhere, I think we’ve actually managed to do that.”
The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) on Dec. 2 voted to direct that healthcare workers and residents of long-term care facilities will be the first to get the shots in the initial rollout — once federal regulators authorize use of a vaccine. The recommendation was approved by CDC Director Robert Redfield, but governors will eventually have the final say on who gets the vaccine first.
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