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16 November 2020 16:31

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Moderna: Covid vaccine shows nearly 95% protection By James Gallagher A new vaccine that protects against Covid-19 is nearly 95% effective, early data from US company Moderna shows. The results come hot on the heels of similar results from Pfizer, and add to growing confidence that vaccines can help end the pandemic. Moderna says it is a "great day" and they plan to apply for approval to use the vaccine in the next few weeks. The trial involved 30,000 people in the US with half being given two doses of the vaccine, four weeks apart. Only five of the Covid cases were in people given the vaccine, 90 were in those given the dummy treatment.

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The company says the vaccine is protecting 94.5% of people. The data also shows there were 11 cases of severe Covid in the trial, but none happened in people who were immunised. it's a great day," Tal Zaks, the chief medical officer at Moderna, told BBC News. He told BBC News: "I don't think any of us really hoped that the vaccine would be 94% effective at preventing Covid-19 disease, that was really a stunning realisation." Moderna says it will apply to regulators in the US in the coming weeks. The company hopes to have up to one billion doses available for use around the world next year and is planning to seek approval in other countries too.

It says Moderna's will not be available before spring next year. There are hints it offers some protection in older age groups, who are most at risk of dying from Covid, but there is not full data. Mr Zaks told the BBC their data so far suggests the vaccine "does not appear to lose its potency" with age. "These effects are what we would expect with a vaccine that is working and inducing a good immune response," said Prof Peter Openshaw, from Imperial College London. Both vaccines use the same approach of injecting part of the virus's genetic code in order to provoke an immune response. The preliminary data we have seen so far is very similar - around 90% protection for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and around 95% for Moderna's. The Sputnik V vaccine, developed in Russia, has also released very early data which suggests it is 92% effective. Moderna has developed an "RNA vaccine" - it means part of the coronavirus's genetic code is injected into the body. In the space of a week, the positive results from Pfizer, Moderna and Russia have transformed our chances of ending the pandemic. The data so far also raise hopes that the other vaccines in development will be successful too, but now as one challenge draws to an ends, another begins. "This news from Moderna is tremendously exciting and considerably boosts optimism that we will have a choice of good vaccines in the next few months," said Prof Peter Openshaw from Imperial College London. Prof Trudie Lang, from the 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. Dr Richard Hatchett, the head of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, said: "The Moderna results are as good as we could have hoped for and really terrifically encouraging." A breakthrough coronavirus vaccine is not expected to be available for the UK until Spring 2021 at the earliest. The US-based Moderna vaccine has been shown to prevent 94.5% of people from getting Covid-19 in trials. But unlike the first breakthrough vaccine from Pfizer, of which the UK has ordered enough doses for 20million people, Moderna is not one of six vaccines pre-ordered by the UK government. And unlike the Pfizer vaccine, which could be given from December 1 at the very earliest, the Moderna vaccine is not expected to be ready by Spring or later in the UK. The UK government is now in "advanced discussions" with Moderna to access the vaccine, but it is not known if the cost will end up being higher for later buyers. A government spokesman said: "Moderna are currently scaling up their European supply chain which means these doses would become available in spring 2021 in the UK at the earliest." He added the government had chosen its candidates to give the UK "the most likely chance of securing a safe and effective vaccine at the quickest speed" Neither the Moderna nor the Pfizer vaccine have passed final regulator approval - but they have different timetables. The Pfizer vaccine, if approved by regulators, will be rolled out sooner but the government still hasn't promised a launch date. Boris Johnson today said he "hoped" the NHS will "be able to start distributing to those who need it, perhaps even before Christmas." "But almost certainly the vast bulk of the rollout - if the safety data proved that it's safe, and that is still not known, we still don't have a vaccine - but even if we do, it's likely that the bulk of the rollout would be in the new year. Interim data from the US firm Moderna suggests its vaccine is highly effective in preventing people getting ill and also works across all age groups, including the elderly. Scientists said the news bodes well for other Covid-19 vaccines, with the one for Oxford University and UK pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca due to report in the coming days or weeks. Moderna intends to submit an application for an Emergency Use Authorisation with the US Food and Drug Administration shortly and will submit further data on the vaccine's effectiveness and safety. The interim analysis included 95 participants with confirmed cases of Covid-19, of which 90 had received the placebo and five the active vaccine. A government spokesman added: "The news from Moderna appears to be good and represents another significant step towards finding an effective COVID19 vaccine. As part of the ongoing work of the Vaccines Taskforce, the Government is in advanced discussions with Moderna to ensure UK access to their vaccine as part of the wider UK portfolio. "To date, the UK government has secured early access to 350 million vaccines doses through agreements with six separate vaccine developers. This includes 40m doses of Pfizer/BioNTech's vaccine, which is based on the same platform as Moderna's vaccine and if approved by the medicines regulator, is expected to begin delivery as early as December 2020."