2020 has been a rollercoaster of a year, and no story has dominated the news cycle and lives of the globe’s population more than the emergence of coronavirus. Since Covid-19 first broke on an international scale, the world’s leading experts and researchers have scrambled to find effective treatments and develop a safe, successful vaccine.
Moderna, one of the companies at the forefront of the coronavirus vaccine development race, recently revealed that their vaccine is 94.5% effective—a number that few expected but all are ecstatic about.
Over the course of several months, even groups of 15,000 participants were given either saline placebo or Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine. Of the 15,000 in the placebo group, 90 contracted Covid-19. This is 18 times higher than the infection rate in the group that received the vaccine, where only five of the 15,000 developed Covid-19.
The good news doesn’t stop there. No serious side effects were observed, and only a handful of those who received the vaccine experienced mild symptoms, such as body aches and headaches.
The success of this vaccine has surprised many experts, due in part to the quickness with which it has been developed. At least some of the vaccine’s effectiveness could be contributed to the method it uses to activate an individual’s immune system.
In a market first, the Moderna vaccine (and its counterpart, a vaccine developed by Pfizer) uses mRNA to spur the immune system into making antibodies. The body then uses these antibodies to attack the virus if and when it enters the body.
Like Pfizer, Moderna plans to request authorization from the US Food and Drug Administration to begin distributing its vaccine. The first doses could be administered sometime this December—an astounding feat if accomplished. These early doses will be given to high-priority groups, including medical workers and at-risk individuals.
With two vaccines, Moderna’s and Pfizer’s, proving to have similar efficacy rates (94.5% versus 95%), there is hope on the horizon of the Covid-19 pandemic. You may be wondering, though, what differentiates these two vaccines aside from half a percent of effectiveness?
The most noteworthy difference between the two vaccines happens to be extremely important. Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccines must be kept at minus 75 degrees Celsius. This makes delivery and storage of the vaccine challenging, if not impossible, for most doctors’ offices, hospitals, and pharmacies.
Moderna’s vaccine, on the other hand, must be kept at minus 20 degrees Celsius. This is similar to common vaccines, such as that for chickenpox, meaning that more facilities have the capability to safely keep it. The Moderna vaccine can also be kept at said temperature for 30 days, while the Pfizer vaccine can only be kept for five.
In other words, the available infrastructure seems to favor the more stable Moderna coronavirus vaccine.