What it means to have two effective vaccines against Covid-19

Chandan Khanna / AFP via Getty

Science took another big step in the fight against the coronavirus on Monday. Biotech company Moderna announced that its vaccine is effective in preventing Covid-19. The results come from an extensive study, but have not yet been checked by external experts or regulatory authorities.

A week ago the US company Pfizer and the Mainz company Biontech announced that their vaccine had been successfully used on test subjects.

We have summarized for you what these results mean for the pandemic:

1. Moderna’s vaccine is 94.5 percent effective

According to Moderna’s first analysis of the 30,000-person study, the vaccine is 94.5 percent effective. Biontech and Pfizer previously reported that their vaccine was more than 90 percent effective.

These numbers may change as we get more data on study participants who contracted Covid-19.

Even so, the results are better than many experts expected. Prior to the Moderna and Pfizer announcements, Dr. Paul Offit, a vaccine expert, told that he hoped for a vaccine that would reduce a 70 percent chance of developing moderate or severe illness. According to him, at least 50 percent are necessary to combat it.

The effectiveness of vaccines can vary from disease to disease. Some, like the seasonal flu vaccine, may only be 44 percent effective, while vaccines that prevent polio and measles are 99 percent and 97 percent effective, respectively.

Next, Moderna plans to submit the vaccine to the US Medicines Agency for emergency approval.

2. Two effective vaccines are better than one

Extensive vaccination efforts are required worldwide to stop the spread of the novel coronavirus. Should the authorities approve the vaccines manufactured by Moderna and Pfizer, we will initially have a limited supply of vaccines.

However, two effective vaccines should help increase its prevalence. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the US Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, said on Sunday that he expected a return to “normalcy” in 2021 when the majority of Americans are vaccinated.

Both vaccines are given in two doses. Pfizer’s second dose is given 21 days after the first injection and Moderna’s second dose is given 28 days after the first injection.

3. The end of the pandemic is in sight, but it will take time

The success of the new vaccines is cause for celebration. But it will be many months before a vaccine is available to everyone. Even then, people have to keep wearing masks and distance themselves socially.

“We all still have to be very focused,” said Stephane Bancel, head of Moderna. He stressed that masks and social distancing are the best pandemic remedies we have right now.

4. Moderna’s vaccine can be stored in refrigerators for 30 days

Moderna’s vaccine, unlike Pfizer’s, does not require special deep freezing.

Pfizer’s vaccine must be shipped and stored at minus 70 degrees Celsius, a temperature colder than that required to store most other vaccines. This is a major obstacle in some countries without adequate infrastructure.

Pfizer will ship the vaccine by air and land with dry ice and reusable GPS temperature monitors.

Moderna’s vaccine can now be stored for up to 30 days with standard refrigeration, the company announced on Monday. This simplifies distribution compared to Pfizer.

The dose is stable for a month at two to eight degrees Celsius, which is the standard temperature of refrigerators. Pfizer is already working on a new version of its vaccine that doesn’t need to be stored at extremely low temperatures, the company’s chief scientist told

5. Moderna’s success shows that Pfizer is also on the right track

Pfizer and Moderna both developed messenger RNA vaccines that only require the virus’ genetic code to develop. Pfizer’s results in November were the first data from a large-scale study to suggest the technology works in humans.

While this may not necessarily signal the success of other coronavirus vaccines under development, it does mean that Pfizer’s success was not a one-off incident.

Finally, the results represent a major step forward in research into m-RNA vaccines. Moderna is also working on several other vaccine candidates for Zika or influenza that use m-RNA technology.

6. All eleven Covid-19 diseases were registered in the study in patients who received a placebo

Moderna noted in its press release that eleven serious cases of Covid-19 were registered among the study participants. All participants who had severe disease were part of the placebo group, Moderna said.

These are the dates that got the most excited, Bancel said. While he stressed that these are not the final study results, the early results mean that “we may have a chance to prevent serious diseases”.

Moderna has broken down the total of 95 Covid-19 cases by age and background. The cases therefore included 15 adults aged 65 and over.

7. Almost 10 percent of the participants were so tired that their daily life was affected

While most of the side effects from Moderna’s vaccine were mild or moderate, some volunteers had severe side effects that are medically questionable but not immediately life threatening.

This mainly happened after the second injection. The most common serious side effects were fatigue in 9.7 percent and severe muscle pain in 8.9 percent of all participants. These side effects are so serious that they affect your daily life or activities for a period of time. According to Moderna, the serious side effects only occurred for a short period of time.

5.2 percent of the participants had severe joint pain, 4.5 percent had severe headache, 4.1 percent had pain at the injection site, and 2 percent complained of redness at the injection site.

This article was translated from English by Klemens Handke. You can find the original here.


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