American biotechnology company, Moderna Inc announced on Monday that its vaccine candidate against COVID-19 was 94.5% effective in preventing novel coronavirus.
The announcement was made by an independent NIH-appointed Data Safety Monitoring Board (DSMB).
“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,” said Stephane Bancel, Moderna’s CEO.
This study, known as the COVE study, enrolled more than 30,000 participants in US and is being conducted in collaboration with multiple American health agencies.
Dr. Stephen Hoge, Moderna’s president, welcomed the “really important milestone” but said having similar results from two different companies is what’s most reassuring.
“That should give us all hope that actually a vaccine is going to be able to stop this pandemic and hopefully get us back to our lives,” Hoge told The Associated Press.
The primary endpoint of the Phase 3 COVE study is based on the analysis of COVID-19 cases confirmed and adjudicated starting two weeks following the second dose of vaccine.
This first interim analysis was based on 95 cases, of which 90 cases of COVID-19 were observed in the placebo group versus 5 cases observed in the mRNA-1273 group, resulting in a point estimate of vaccine efficacy of 94.5%.
Moderna shares rose more than 9% in pre-market U.S. trading, while in Europe, the Stoxx 600 Index was up 1.5%
Moderna received nearly $1 billion in research and development funding from the US government and has a deal worth $1.5 billion to supply 100 million doses.
The results come one week after Pfizer Inc and German partner BioNTech SE said their experimental vaccine was more than 90% effective based on initial data.
Both Moderna’s shots and the Pfizer-BioNTech candidate are so-called mRNA vaccines, a brand-new technology. They aren’t made with the coronavirus itself, meaning there’s no chance anyone could catch it from the shots. Instead, the vaccine contains a piece of genetic code that trains the immune system to recognize the spiked protein on the surface of the virus.
Scientists have warned for months that any COVID-19 shot may be only as good as flu vaccines, which are about 50% effective.
Another steep challenge is distribution of doses that must be kept very cold. Both the Moderna and Pfizer shots are frozen but at different temperatures. Moderna announced Monday that once thawed, its doses can last longer in a refrigerator than initially thought, up to 30 days. Pfizer’s shots require long-term storage at ultra-cold temperatures.