Biotechnology company Moderna has reported its experimental COVID vaccine is over 94 percent effective, higher than the 90 percent reported by Pfizer last week. Moderna said in a press release on Monday it had been informed by an independent monitoring board that its vaccine, named mRNA-1273, was 94.5 percent effective.
The announcement comes a week after American pharmaceutical firm Pfizer and German biotechnology company BioNTech said their COVID vaccine candidate was 90 percent effective in preventing COVID-19, followed by similar reports from Russia and China.
Moderna plans to ask the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for an emergency use authorization for its vaccine "in the coming weeks." The company said it is working with bodies including the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to prepare to distribute the vaccine in the event it is authorized. It expects to have approximately 20 million doses ready to ship in the U.S. by the end of 2020, and is on track to make between 500 million and 1 billion doses globally in 2021.
The company revealed the results after enough volunteers in the study caught COVID, prompting an independent monitoring board to unveil who had taken placebo and who received mRNA-1273.
More than 30,000 people in the U.S. are involved in Moderna's phase 3 study. That included those at risk of serious COVID, such as people above the age of 65 and those with certain underlying health conditions, as well as members of communities often underepresented in trials, such as people of color.
The company arrived at the figure of 94.5 percent after 95 participants developed COVID-19. Of those, 90 were given a placebo, and five took mRNA-1273.
Scientists also looked for severe cases of COVID-19 among the participants, and found 11. These volunteers were all in the placebo group.
No significant safety concerns have emerged so far, and the vaccine appears to be safe and well-tolerated by participants, according to Moderna. Side effects included pain at the site of injection, fatigue after participants received their second dose, muscle or joint pain, headache, and redness at the site of injection. These were "short-lived" in volunteers.