Ontario goverment working on plan to distribute, prioritize groups for coronavirus vaccine

Darnell Taylor
November 17, 2020

European authorities have hailed the promising trial data announced by US biotech firm Moderna for its COVID-19 vaccine candidate - the second time in a week that a vaccine developer has announced expectation-exceeding results, following a similar announcement from Pfizer/BioNTech last week.

Moderna's vaccine against Covid-19 is strongly effective, the company said Monday, building excitement about the potential of controlling the global pandemic. Its U.S. contract has an option for 400 million doses in addition to the initial 100 million.

Shares in Pfizer and its partner BioNTech, whose vaccine must be transported at far colder temperatures, fell 4.3per cent and 16.4per cent respectively, while Britain's AstraZeneca, which has yet to release any results from its late-stage vaccine trials, was down 1per cent. It's expected to complete a fifth contract, with CureVac, this week.

The UK, which is no longer included under EU Commission group deals, has also said it is in advanced talks with Moderna.

Moderna's experimental vaccine is 94.5 per cent effective in preventing COVID-19 based on interim data from a late-stage trial, the company said on Monday, becoming the second USA drugmaker to report results that far exceed expectations.

Together with Pfizer's vaccine, which is also more than 90 per cent effective, and pending more safety data and regulatory review, the United States could have two vaccines authorized for emergency use in December with as many as 60 million doses of vaccine available this year. 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.

The Moderna results are drawn from a clinical trial conducted in the US involving 30,000 participants.

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The news comes at a hard time for Johnson, whose office saw the departure of two top aides last week amid factional infighting. Johnson said it didn't matter that he has already endured COVID-19 and is "bursting with antibodies".

To make a mRNA vaccine, scientists create a genetic material that directs the human body to produce antibodies that can recognize and destroy the new coronavirus. "It's going to require many vaccines" to meet the global demand, he added. Both vaccines use a still experimental mRNA technology but experts are suggesting the big challenge ahead will be overcoming the logistical hurdles in carrying out mass vaccinations.

Moderna's interim analysis was based on 95 infections among trial participants who received either a placebo or the vaccine. There were only five infections in patients who developed Covid-19 after receiving Moderna's vaccine, mRNA-1273.

The Moderna vaccine reduced the risk of Covid-19 infection by 94.5%. Also, it's too soon to know how long protection lasts. The company reports 11 severe cases were detected in the trial, however, all were in the placebo group. In the early look, the company said no significant safety concerns were reported, and the vaccine was generally well tolerated, with injection-site pain for some people after the first dose, and fatigue, headache and joint pain after the second.

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. While the vaccine itself is good news, "it is now clear that this is not a public health product for low- and middle-income countries, unless the price is a tenth [of the current price] or less", she said. Russian Federation said last week its vaccine had 92% efficacy in a large trial.

If the U.S. Food and Drug Administration allows emergency use of either or both candidates, there will be limited, rationed supplies before the end of the year. Two doses, administered several weeks apart, are necessary to achieve optimal protection.

Moderna, part of the USA government's Operation Warp Speed program, expects to produce about 20 million doses for the United States this year, millions of which the company has already made and is ready to ship if it gets FDA authorisation.

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