A SECOND coronavirus vaccine has been found to be 94 per cent effective – but the UK hasn’t ordered any doses.
Trials on more than 30,000 people found that only five given the jab developed Covid – none with severe symptoms.
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A coronavirus vaccine from US firm Moderna has been found to be 94 per cent effective, picture, a volunteer having a jab during the trial’s first phase[/caption]
In comparison, 90 people given a dummy vaccine fell ill, according to US maker Moderna.
However, the UK has no pre-orders of the jab and The Sun yesterday revealed ministers are now scrambling to secure supplies.
Officials said they are in advanced talks to buy millions of the jabs, which contains a fragment of the virus’s genetic material – or RNA – like the Pfizer vaccine.
But following Pfizer’s announcement last week, it raises hopes that an effective vaccine is a “real probability” – and having more than one supplier could help global distribution.
Moderna’s jab was also trialled on those most at risk of severe illness from Covid, including the elderly and ethnic minority groups – offering a boost that the vulnerable will be protected from the deadly bug.
Stéphane Bancel, Chief Executive Officer of Moderna, said: “This is a pivotal moment in the development of our Covid-19 vaccine candidate.
“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.”
It comes a week after Pfizer announced its Covid jab had more than 90 per cent efficacy against the disease.
Britain has pre-ordered 40million doses, with the first 10 million ready to be administered by Christmas if the vaccine gets regulatory approval.
But despite showing signs of promise, the Pfizer jab must be stored at about -70C (-94F) – which is much lower than the average freezer can reach.
US firm Moderna announced its interim results today – a week after Pfizer[/caption]
In contrast, the Moderna jab can be stored in a fridge for a month – meaning it would be much easier to distribute than the Pfizer frontrunner.
Scientists claim it remains stable at -20C for up to half a year, at refrigerated conditions for up to 30 days and at room temperature for up to 12 hours.
Juan Andres, Chief Technical Operations and Quality Officer at Moderna, said: “The ability to store our vaccine for up to 6 months at -20C including up to 30 days at normal refrigerator conditions after thawing is an important development and would enable simpler distribution.”
Moderna also included many high-risk and elderly people in its major clinical trial, which experts claim makes the results more relevant to those most vulnerable to Covid.
Prof Peter Openshaw, from Imperial College London, said the announcement “boosts optimism that we will have a choice of good vaccines in the next few months”.
He said: “First we heard 90 per cent efficacy from Pfizer and BioNTech, then the Russians said 92 per cent and now Moderna says 94.5 per cent.
“This latest press release is based on a study of 30,000 US adults, including many high-risk or elderly persons.
“This gives us confidence that the results are relevant in the people who are most at risk of Covid-19 and in most need of the vaccines.”
Prof Openshaw added that the storage temperatures would also make it “much easier” to deliver than the Pfizer vaccine.
He also said it was “quite good” news on side-effects with only a tiny percentage reporting symptoms.
“The first dose caused injection site pain in in about three per cent of people,” he said.
“The second dose was associated with transient generalised symptoms in about 10 per cent of people with fatigue, muscle aches and flu like symptoms.
“This seems to indicate that they got the dose about right with acceptable adverse events.
“These effects are what we would expect with a vaccine that is working and inducing a good immune response.”
With vaccines typically taking years to make it this far, other experts have also welcomed the breakthrough announcement today.
Prof Trudie Lang, director at The Global Health Network, Nuffield Department of Medicine, 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.
“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.”
Prof Stephen Evans, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: “This is further encouragement that vaccines will be found to not only have an acceptable efficacy, but an efficacy that is much greater than we had anticipated.
“This is the first study to report on severe cases and, while uncertainty remains, the finding of no severe cases with the vaccine and 11 cases with placebo is very strong evidence that the vaccine prevents severe as well as mild disease.
“A wide range of people with illnesses and from minority groups were included in the trials as well as substantial numbers of older patients.
“We will need much more data and a full report or publication to see if the benefit is consistent across all groups, notably the elderly, but this is definitely encouraging progress.”
Meanwhile, the UK will today become the first country to run final stage trials for a Covid vaccine developed by pharma firm Janssen.
It is the third coronavirus jab to be tested on Brits – after those from Oxford and Novavax – and will involve 6,000 people nationwide.
Ministers have secured access to 30 million doses, should it prove successful, with results expected from mid-2021 onwards.
Interim analysis of phase one and two trials indicated it induces a “robust immune response” and is generally well-tolerated.
And British drugs giant Glaxo-SmithKline yesterday revealed it has already manufactured “millions of doses” of its Covid jab.
Roger Connor, its president of global vaccines, said the firm had launched mass production and is set to launch final trials.
It is aiming for safety approval in the first half of next year.
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Prof Ugur Sahin, a scientist behind the Pfizer jab, said yesterday: “If everything continues to go well, we will start to deliver the vaccine end of this year, beginning next year.
“Our goal is to deliver more than 300 million of vaccine doses until April next year, which could allow us to already start to make an impact.”
Side-effects include a slight pain at the injection site and fever for a few days.