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Moderna Vaccine Trial Results – Expert Reaction

US company Moderna has announced that their leading vaccine against COVID-19 is 95 percent effective.

The analysis was based on the first 95 people to develop Covid-19 symptoms in a trial of 30,000 participants in the USA. This vaccine candidate uses a similar technology to the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, results from which were announced last week.

The SMC asked experts to comment on the results.

Dr Fran Priddy, Clinical Director Vaccine Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand – Ohu Kaupare Huaketo, comments:

“The Moderna results, showing almost 95% efficacy in a preliminary analysis of interim data, are fantastic news in the fight to end the COVID-19 pandemic. A real shot in the arm! This finding reinforces data from Pfizer/BioNTech last week that we are likely to have highly effective vaccines against COVID-19.

“Both findings demonstrate the potential for mRNA vaccines generally, which were previously unproven. Also both vaccines are using the same antigen from SARS-CoV2, the spike protein, suggesting that is a good approach.

“A couple of important differences in the data are that Moderna reported 11 cases of severe COVID-19 disease in their trial so far which were all in the placebo group. This suggests that mRNA vaccines may prevent not only mild COVID-19 disease, but also more serious cases. We don’t have these details regarding the Pfizer vaccine yet but it’s reasonable to assume it will have the same benefit. Also Moderna reported its vaccine is stable at -4 degrees C for up to 6 months, which is much easier to implement globally than the -70 degrees C currently required for the Pfizer vaccine.

“These data are far from complete. We need to see if the vaccines protect for longer than a few weeks or months and how well they protect in specific ages and subgroups. Even if these vaccines are approved for emergency use, they still need longer follow-up for safety and additional testing in populations such as adolescents, children, pregnant women and the immunocompromised.

“The Sputnik V vaccine uses a different vaccine platform – a combination of two non-replicating adenoviral vectors. Although they reported preliminary efficacy data, it was based on only 20 cases of COVID-19, compared to 94 and 95 cases for Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna respectively, so it is difficult to draw any accurate conclusions yet.”

Conflict of interest statement: Dr Priddy is Clinical Director of the Government-funded Vaccine Alliance Aotearoa New Zealand – Ohu Kaupare Huaketo, a partnership between the Malaghan Institute, the University of Otago and Victoria University of Wellington.

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