The second vaccine against COVID-19, created by Moderna, is expected to secure emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration by week’s end, and it offers more hope in the world’s battle against coronavirus.
Scientists on the pandemic frontlines regard this week’s deployment of the Pfizer vaccine as a turning point in the battle to save lives and say it’s significant that the first vaccine is being quickly followed by another one that is just as effective.
“We’ve just got the first tool that came along…and short on the heels of that, we’ve got the Moderna vaccine, which in many respects, according to the data that has been published, looks just as successful and just as useful or valuable as a vaccine,” said Dr. Wilbur Chen, a professor of medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.
Chen said the Moderna vaccine’s estimated efficacy against COVID-19 is 94%, versus 95% for the Pfizer vaccine.
The vaccines were developed in record time for a world eager for relief from the virus that broke out in Wuhan, China, and swept across the world, delivering illness and death, destroying jobs and businesses and upending life for people nearly everywhere.
Chen, an infectious disease physician who works in vaccine development, said the rapid development of COVID vaccines was achieved while ensuring its safety and effectiveness.
“We have not skipped over any of the normal safety procedures for evaluating these vaccines, nor the efficacy of these vaccines,” Chen said.
Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines rely on new technology, called messenger RNA, to stimulate the body’s immune system against the coronavirus. The vaccines are different because their mRNA is preserved in different formulations, some of which is the manufacturer’s proprietary information.
“They’re inactive substances, so they’re basically like different electrolytes, salts, ingredients, they also might be different, what we call, lipids or fats,” Chen said.
Much has been said and written about the different storage temperatures required for the two vaccines. Pfizer’s formulation needs ultra-cold storage, about -112 degrees Fahrenheit, while the Moderna vaccine’s formulation needs only standard cold refrigeration.
Dr. Chen, a principal investigator in the 2009 NIH trials for a vaccine against the H1N1 virus, said there’s concern among scientists and policymakers over doubt and misinformation about COVID vaccines.
“We need to have trust,” Chen said.
But already, experts like Chen are already having to tamp down erroneous information about the vaccines being spread on the internet.
“From the end user point of view, the recipient, what you really want to know is, ‘Is it going to give me protection?’ And what we’re seeing with these two vaccines, when you compare them against each other, is that the efficacy is really indistinguishable.
So for the consumer, for the person who is receiving the vaccine, I would say that there’s not one better than the other,” said Chen.
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