The Moderna coronavirus vaccine has become the second to be approved for emergency use in the US, clearing the way for millions of doses to be distributed.
The country’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced the authorisation of the jab the day after the agency’s panel of outside experts endorsed its use.
The FDA based its decision on results from a late-stage study of 30,000 volunteers that found the vaccine was nearly 95% effective at preventing illness from Covid-19.
It comes a week after the agency authorised a vaccine from Pfizer Inc and German partner BioNTech SE which has already been administered to thousands of healthcare workers.
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Dr Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, said: ‘We’re not done with this but hope is on the way, and the hope comes from this scientific brain trust that has pulled out all the stops.’
Experts hope the two vaccines together will ‘break the back of the pandemic’ when combined with masks and other precautions, Dr Arnold Monto, of the University of Michigan, added.
More than 313,000 people have died of coronavirus in the US, with 3,000 new fatalities and an average of 216,000 new infections occurring each day.
President Donald Trump hailed the authorisation, tweeting: ‘Congratulations, the Moderna vaccine is now available!’
According to the government’s vaccine development programme, Operation Warp Speed, Moderna has about 5.9 million doses ready for shipment this weekend. The vaccine must be transported to hospitals and other centers before injections begin.
Coronavirus is studded with ‘spike proteins’ that it uses to enter human cells. Covid-19 vaccines target this spike protein.
The Moderna and Pfizer vaccines use synthetic messenger RNA (mRNA), a genetic material that contains information about the spike protein.
The vaccines provide the body with instructions to produce a small amount of this protein which, once detected by the immune system, leads to a protective antibody response. Moderna’s vaccine does not require the same ultracold storage as Pfizer’s and can remain stable at normal fridge temperature for 30 days.
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