Coronavirus: Moderna’s vaccine is 94.5% effective, early results show – but Britain hasn’t bought it

A second coronavirus vaccine has been proven to work as US pharmaceutical company Moderna today revealed its jab is 94.5 per cent effective – but the UK hasn’t bought any of it. 

Early results from the company’s final stage of clinical trials bring another landmark success in the global race to end the pandemic after Pfizer’s vaccine, which works in the same way, was last week found to be 90 per cent effective.

Moderna’s results show that only five out of 95 people who tested positive in the study had been given the vaccine, compared to 90 who had not. There are around 30,000 people in the study in total, each receiving two doses of the jab or a placebo.

And nobody in the vaccine group got seriously ill with Covid-19, compared to 11 in the placebo group, who were given a fake vaccine to compare against the real one.

The results suggest the vaccine significantly reduces the risk of people testing positive for coronavirus or getting sick with Covid-19.

But Britain has not secured early access to the vaccine, meaning it will not get any doses of the jab this year. It may be able to buy some of the 500million to 1billion doses the firm plans to make in 2021, but no deal has yet been announced.

The US, meanwhile, has already struck a $1.5billion (£1.16bn) deal for 100million doses, while the EU has an ‘unsigned’ deal for 160million doses. Japan, Canada, Switzerland, Qatar and Israel have all also secured deals with Moderna, while the company continues ‘discussions with a number of countries’. It is expected to manufacture 20m doses this year.  

The jab is expected to cost $15.25 (£11.57) per dose, so $30.50 (£23.14) per person, which is slightly cheaper than the $19.50 (£14.79) per dose charged to the US by Pfizer. 

Moderna’s may be cheaper to distribute, however, because it can be kept in a fridge for up to a month and transported in normal freezers at -20°C (-4°F), whereas Pfizer’s must be stored at an ultra-cold -70°C (-94°F) in specialist equipment.

Moderna said it will apply for a licence from the US Food & Drug Administration within weeks, but it is unclear whether it will apply to the UK. British drug regulator, the MHRA, is in the midst of an ongoing review of the vaccine.

The study will continue until 151 people have been infected, and the company admitted the estimate of how effective the jab is might change by the end.

Scientists today hailed the news as ‘tremendously exciting’ and ‘a second dose of very encouraging news’, and it comes as Health Secretary Matt Hancock today said the UK is gearing up to start giving out Pfizer’s vaccine from December 1.

Moderna has become the second high-profile company to confirm interim results of a clinical trial of its coronavirus vaccine, claiming that the jab is nearly 95 per cent effective

Moderna's vaccine works in the same way as the one developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, by using genetic material called RNA from the coronavirus to trick the body into making the 'spike' proteins that the virus uses to latch onto cells inside the body

Moderna’s vaccine works in the same way as the one developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, by using genetic material called RNA from the coronavirus to trick the body into making the ‘spike’ proteins that the virus uses to latch onto cells inside the body

Virologist at the University of Reading, Professor Ian Jones, told MailOnline: ‘Yet another set of vaccine data with 90 per cent plus protection. 

‘The poor antibody response seen in some natural Covid infections clearly does not apply to purposeful vaccination, which in turn means we can be confident about pushing the pandemic back as and when vaccine rollout occurs. 

‘For the Moderna vaccine the logistics of the process may also be helped by their stability data which shows a less strict cold chain requirement than some. With three trials having been reported and no major safety issues identified the vaccination program can now focus on deployment and access to vaccines for all who need them.’

And Dr Andrew Preston, a biologist at the University of Bath, told this website: ‘That two vaccines, based on this new vaccine platform [mRNA vaccine] give such similar, high levels of protection gives real confidence that the vaccines work.

‘Like the Pfizer trial, a vast majority of the cases of Covid recorded occurred in people who had received the placebo vaccine, demonstrating the ability of the Covid vaccine to protect against Covid disease.

‘The trial included people in the most vulnerable categories (older age and certain co-morbidities [illnesses]). Although this important inclusion is emphasised in the press release, a detailed explanation of whether the trial data can specify the level of protection for each of these key subgroups is lacking. So, while the headline figure of overall protection is extremely encouraging, some important questions remain to be answered.’ 

He added the fact that fact the vaccine does not need to be kept in ultra-cold temperatures like Pfizer’s, so would be easy to store, was ‘a second dose of very encouraging news’. 

In other coronavirus developments today:

Boris Johnson insisted he can run the country by Zoom as he hit back at criticism of a mask-free meeting with a coronavirus-infected Tory MP that has forced him to self-isolate for a fortnight;More than 250 NHS workers and care home staff have joined an ‘anti-vaxxer’ group that compares Pfizer’s Covid jab to ‘poison’ and is opposed to wearing masks;Health Secretary Matt Hancock claimed Britain is ‘working very closely’ with Pfizer to roll out the drug giant’s breakthrough vaccine from the start of December;Coronavirus was circulating in Italy as early as September 2019 – months before the disease was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan, a study by the National Cancer Institute of Milan has suggested;International flights between Australia and the UK will only resume when a vaccine starts being rolled out, Qantas boss Alan Joyce claimed;Baby boomers who missed out on holidays, sport and seeing friends during lockdown spent the money they saved on alcohol instead, according to psychiatrists. 

The interim results of Moderna’s study, which finished enrolling its last participants last month and is being been run in the US, were unveiled in a press release today.

In the group of people who received the jab – around half of the 30,000 involved –just five people have tested positive for coronavirus and none have become seriously ill.  

In the placebo group which composes the other half, however, 90 people have tested positive and 11 developed severe Covid-19.

Fifteen of the positive tests in the trial were among over-65s, the highest risk group, while 20 were among non-white people, who are also thought to be at higher risk from Covid-19.

The fact that so many more people tested positive in the non-vaccine group suggests that the jab is effective.

Professor Peter Openshaw, an experimental medicine expert at Imperial College London, said: ‘This news from Moderna is tremendously exciting and considerably boosts optimism that we will have a choice of good vaccines in the next few months. 

‘First we heard 90 per cent efficacy from Pfizer and BioNTech, then the Russians said 92 per cent and now Moderna says 94.5 per cent… 

‘We need more complete details than we have in this press release, but this announcement adds to the general feeling of optimism about vaccines for Covid-19.’

Professor Trudie Lang, a global health researcher at Oxford, hailed it ‘very good news indeed’, and London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine’s Professor Stephen Evans added it was ‘further encouragement that vaccines will be found to [have] an efficacy that is much greater than we had anticipated’.  

Today’s results suggest the vaccine works better than the one developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, which was last week revealed to be 90 per cent effective at the same stage in its clinical trials.

WHAT DO MODERNA’S TRIAL RESULTS MEAN? 

Moderna’s clinical trial is a phase three trial being carried out on approximately 30,000 people.

This means it is a final stage clinical trial designed to test how well the vaccine works and to look more closely at the safety of it – the huge number of people involved mean the results can be more specific and the tests done on wide-ranging groups of people. 

Half of the group have been given two doses of the real Covid vaccine, named mRNA-1273, while the other half received two doses of a placebo (a fake vaccine).

So far, 95 people in the group have tested positive for coronavirus.

Five of them – 5.2 per cent – were in the group who received the real vaccine.

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