A US-developed vaccine has been shown to be 94.5% effective at protecting people from COVID-19, according to interim results.
Produced by Moderna, in collaboration with the US government’s “Operation Warp Speed”, the vaccine has also been shown to last for up to 30 days in household fridges and at room temperature for up to 12 hours.
It also remains stable at -20C, equal to most household or medical freezers, for up to six months.
This suggests it can be stored and transported much more easily than a Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which was last week announced to be 90% effective at protecting people from coronavirus.
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Following last week’s news, governments around the world – including the UK – had been scrambling to deal with the logistical challenge of deploying the Pfizer vaccine, which is required to be stored at much lower temperatures.
So far, the UK government has secured early access to six candidate vaccines – totalling more than 350 million doses – which includes the Pfizer vaccine but not the Moderna vaccine.
However, the UK government said it was in “advanced discussions” with Moderna to also ensure access to their vaccine.
A spokesperson said: “The news from Moderna appears to be good and represents another significant step towards finding an effective COVID-19 vaccine.
“As part of the ongoing work of the vaccines taskforce, the government is in advanced discussions with Moderna to ensure UK access to their vaccine as part of the wider UK portfolio.
“Moderna are currently scaling up their European supply chain which means these doses would become available in spring 2021 in the UK at the earliest.
“To date, the UK government has secured early access to 350 million vaccines doses through agreements with six separate vaccine developers.
“This includes 40m doses of Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine, which is based on the same platform as Moderna’s vaccine and if approved by the medicines regulator, is expected to begin delivery as early as December 2020.”
The US government have an agreement for 100 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, while the EU concluded “exploratory talks” with the company earlier this year that could result in it purchasing up to 160 million doses.
Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use technology known as mRNA, which introduces into the body a messenger sequence that contains the genetic instructions for the vaccinated person’s own cells to produce the antigens and generate an immune response.
Stephane Bancel, Moderna’s chief executive, hailed “a pivotal moment” in the company’s development of a COVID-19 vaccine.
He said: “Since early January, we have chased this virus with the intent to protect as many people around the world as possible. All along, we have known that each day matters.
“This positive interim analysis from our Phase 3 study has given us the first clinical validation that our vaccine can prevent COVID-19 disease, including severe disease.”
Responding to the interim analysis of the Moderna vaccine, Professor Trudie Lang, director of the Global Health Network at the University of Oxford, said: “It is very good news indeed to see another vaccine coming through with similar efficacy results as were reported last week from Pfizer.
“This is also an interim analysis, which means that there were enough cases within the vaccinated volunteers to give statistical significance and allow the team to break the blind to determine who had the active vaccine and who had placebo.
“Here they found that of 95 cases of COVID, 90 had received the placebo and five the active vaccine.
“These early results suggest that there was a representation across different age groups and diverse communities in the protected group.
“This is really encouraging and it further demonstrates that a vaccine for COVID is a real probability and that having more than one supplier should help assure better and more equitable global availability.
“This vaccine is also an mRNA vaccine, so many of the same questions remain as we have been discussing with the Pfizer vaccine and these will be looked at carefully by the regulators.”
Earlier on Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson expressed his hope that “those who really need it” might receive a COVID-19 vaccine “perhaps before Christmas”.
Speaking to Sky News’ Kay Burley, Health Secretary Matt Hancock described the roll-out of a vaccine as a “huge administrative challenge”.
“Even if that comes through as fast as it possibly could, the majority of people we’d expect to be vaccinating in the New Year even if we do manage to make progress this year,” he said.
“We are not there yet, we don’t yet have a vaccine signed off.”