Another COVID-19 vaccine appears ready in the pipeline, as an outside panel of advisors to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) overwhelmingly endorsed Moderna’s vaccine on Thursday.
The committee of outside experts makes recommendations to the FDA, which it did for Pfizer’s vaccine just last week. The FDA generally goes along with the advice of its advisory committees in such matters.
The committee voted 20-0, with one expert abstaining, that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh its risks in people aged 18 and older. The vaccine is now headed to the FDA to receive emergency use authorization.
Moderna’s vaccine does not require the specialized ultra-cold freezers or vast quantities of dry ice that Pfizer’s vaccine does, which should add access to remote areas. Both Moderna and Pfizer’s vaccine are 95 percent effective at preventing COVID-19 with no serious safety issues, as shown in clinical trials.
The FDA could authorize Moderna’s vaccine as early as Thursday or early Friday. 5.9 million doses of the Moderna vaccine could be distributed to states next week.
The committee member who abstained was not convinced of a blanket authorization for everyone over 18.
“I’m not convinced that for all of those age groups the benefits do actually outweigh the risk,” National Institutes of Health’s Dr. Michael Kurilla said. “And I would prefer to see it more targeted towards people at high risk of serious and life threatening COVID disease.”
5.9 million doses of the vaccine have been allotted for states and large cities and were ready to ship nationwide, once the FDA approves its use.
Moderna’s vaccine requires two doses, 28 days apart. Results show there were no cases of severe COVID-19 among those who got the vaccine versus 30 such cases in the placebo group in the trial.
The vaccine uses synthetic messenger RNA (mRNA) technology to promote antibodies that detect and kill the COVID-19 virus.
20 million doses could be delivered this month, with more coming in the first quarter of next year and an additional 100 million doses in the second quarter.
More than 300,000 people have died because of COVID-19. On Wednesday, the U.S. saw a one-day high of 3,580 deaths.
The Pfizer vaccine has reached major hospital systems in Michigan, including Henry Ford and Beaumont. Garden City Hospital has also received doses. The Wayne County Health Department will begin vaccinations on Friday, with priority given to healthcare workers, as is the case for the rest of the nation.