The Moderna and Pfizer mRNA vaccines, if approved, will become the first licensed products using an approach that has been thought to hold enormous promise as a tool for responding to new disease threats.
News from US drug company Moderna Inc. that its potential COVID-19 vaccine candidate has also been more than 90 per cent effective in clinical trials sent stock markets soaring on Monday, boosting hopes that the global economy may soon fully convalesce and things could get back to normal.
The government has scrambled to secure the vaccine, with Matt Hancock announcing this afternoon that the United Kingdom has signed an "initial agreement" to purchase five million doses, but only from April.
All final data will also be submitted to the scientific community for independent peer review, which is a standard part of the ultimate vaccine trial and approval process.
Even with fast authorisation, the vaccines will not come in time for most people celebrating the US Thanksgiving and end-of-year holidays, when families and friends come together - just the types of gatherings public health officials warn against. The vaccines contains genetic material that prompt the body to create a protein that sits on the exterior of the virus, effectively training the immune system to recognize it as an invader. Expectations for these vaccines had not run quite so high, with many experts cautioning that the shots might offer modest protection along the lines of what is seen with influenza vaccines. Pfizer plans to ask the U.S. Food and Drug Administration this month to authorize use of the shot, setting up potential distribution to begin by the end of the year.
The EU has been in talks with Moderna for its experimental COVID-19 vaccine since at least July.
"We continue to receive encouraging news about COVID-19 vaccines and remain cautiously optimistic about the potential for new tools to start to arrive in the coming months", World Health Organization chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a virtual press briefing. Moderna says the vaccine can be kept at temperatures of 2 to 8 degrees Celsius for 30 days. Of the 95 cases in Moderna's trial, 11 were severe and all 11 occurred among volunteers who got the placebo. Moderna expects to have about 20 million doses, earmarked for USA usage, by the end of 2020. "All the vaccines that are coming now would be potentially useful for us (India)". He said having similar results from two different companies is reassuring. "We will have more of those weeks before the vaccine is out there". Moderna has received almost $1 billion in research and development funding from the U.S. government and has a $1.5 billion deal for 100 million doses. It said on 11 November that its vaccine was 92 per cent effective based on 20 infections in its large trial.
The main side effects were fatigue, muscle aches and injection-site pain after the vaccine's second dose, at rates that Hoge characterized as more common than with flu shots but on par with others such as shingles vaccine.
The federal government has ordered 76 million doses of Pfizer's vaccine candidate, as well as 20 million firm orders for the Moderna candidate, with an option for 36 million more.
The federal government may decide to vaccinate health-care workers and first responders first, followed by other segments of the population in phases until more doses are made next year.
"We may be in a place with a vaccine that has a big impact on the prevention of severe disease", Moderna Chief Executive Stéphane Bancel said in an interview.
Some experts who study vaccine supply chains saw reason for optimism after Moderna's announcement on Monday.