Last week it was Pfizer that came up with hopeful news about a coronavaccin, today followed Moderna. The vaccine has an effectiveness of 94.5 percent, the pharmaceutical announced. Thats even higher than the 90 percent of Pfizer.
Good news say vaccine experts, because the vaccines work with the same new MRNA method. That method did not produce a successful vaccine before. What do we know about the Moderna vaccine and what needs to be investigated? Four questions and answers.
1. When can people be vaccinated with this vaccine?
It will take a few weeks before the final goal of this stage of research is reached, Professor of Vaccinology Anke Huckriede of the UMCG expects: “You have to wait until enough people are infected, for this vaccine the target is about 160 people.”
When the interim results were published, 95 subjects had become infected with the coronavirus. Because 90 of them received placebo instead of the vaccine, Moderna was able to determine that the effectiveness of the vaccine is 94.5 percent. In addition, the subjects must have been vaccinated at least two months ago in order to determine whether the vaccine is safe.
Stephen Hoge of Moderna responds pleased to the results:
Once this has been done, the vaccine will go to the European Medicines Agency (EMA) for review. Because of the urgency, the EMA has also taken part in Phase 1 and Phase 2 studies. Cecile van Els, Professor of Vaccinology at Utrecht University, estimates that the vaccine will therefore be approved in a month or two. Van Els is also active at the RIVM.
At the same time, pharmaceuticals are already working on the production of vaccines to ensure that they can be distributed when they are approved. The Netherlands receives 3.1 to 6.2 million vaccines from Moderna, but when we get how many, it is not yet known. The deal with the EU is officially not yet completed.
Because each person needs two injections, a few weeks apart, it means that 1.5 to 3 million Dutch people can be vaccinated with the Moderna vaccine.
2. What do we know and do not yet know about the operation?
That the vaccine generates enough antibodies against infection seems certain, says Anke Huckriede of the UMCG. “This vaccine, like the Pfizer vaccine, uses MRNA technology. No successful MRNA vaccine has been put on the market before, so that two independent trials now show similar results using the same method is encouraging.”
It is also clear that there are no serious side effects in the short term. But what remains open are questions about the long term: how long is a vaccinated person protected and long-term side effects arise?
Current studies cannot demonstrate this, says Professor of Immunology at the Amsterdam UMC Marjolein van Egmond in the CCEit Radio 1 programme News and Co: “Pharmaceuticals will continue to follow the subjects in the coming period and then it will be peat when people become infected again.“
Only when the vaccine is actually used will there be anything to say about the duration of protection of the vaccine. That applies to any vaccine.
3. What is the difference between this vaccine and that of Pfizer?
Both the Pfizer vaccine and the Moderna vaccine work with MRNA technology. In fact, it consists of an artificial piece of genetic material from the so-called spike protein of the SARS-COV-2 virus. With that spike protein, the virus binds to a human cell.
Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines must be stored at low temperatures for longer shelf life, the Pfizer vaccine even at a temperature of -70 degrees. In the refrigerator, 2 to 8 degrees, it can only last for five days.
A vaccine has rarely been developed as quickly as against Corona.Ceitop3 explains whether it is safe:
The advantage of the Moderna vaccine is that it can be stored at a less low temperature. According to the pharmaceutical, the vaccine at -20 degrees is shelf life for half a year. At refrigerator temperature, it is shelf life for 30 days. “That saves a sip on a drink for the people who have to carry out the vaccination programme,” says Cecile van Els of RIVM and Utrecht University.
Because the Moderna vaccine can be stored at a higher temperature, this may be suitable for use by general practitioners. Van Els: “If professionals already have the refrigerator they normally store vaccines in, they can now use them as well.”
4. What does this say about the effects of other vaccines?
The EU has taken options on six vaccines. Two important alternatives work in a different way: with a so-called vector. These are the vaccines of pharmaceuticals AstraZeneca and Janssen.
Interim results of the Phase 3 studies will soon be expected from this. A Vectoris a relatively harmless cold virus to which genetic material from the spike protein of the SARS-COV-2 virus has been added.
These are the vaccines served by the European Union. You can also see the number of vaccines available in the Netherlands with good results:
Despite the different effects, Anke Huckriede is optimistic that these vaccines also show similar results to Pfizer and Moderna: “Like the MRNA vaccines, AstraZeneca and Janssen also work with genetic information from the spike protein of the coronavirus. In advance, the question was whether making antibodies against the spike protein could provide sufficient protection against infection at all. That seems to be the case because of the results of Pfizer and Moderna.”