The prospect of the first COVID-19 vaccinations in the United States by the end of the year is materializing: after Pfizer / BioNTech last week, the American biotech company Moderna announced on Monday that its vaccine was effective at 94 , 5%.
• Read also: Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine 94.5% effective
The two vaccines could be authorized by the United States Medicines Agency (FDA) in the first half of December, said Monday Moncef Slaoui, scientific manager of Operation Warp Speed, set up by Donald Trump to vaccinate the American population.
This would make it possible to vaccinate 20 million Americans, in priority probably the oldest and at risk, from the second half of December, according to him, then 25 million people per month from January, he said on MSNBC.
He also expects Johnson & Johnson’s single dose vaccine to show results in the second half of January, which would pave the way for clearance in the second half of February. Without counting the possible authorization of a fourth in advanced phase of testing, AstraZeneca / Oxford.
In total, the United States estimates that with several vaccines, there will be enough doses by early April for the entire population.
As for Europe, officials have said it is possible to start vaccinations in January, subject to approval.
On both sides of the Atlantic, it will probably be necessary to wait until the summer of 2021 for a return to normal, with a high proportion of the population vaccinated.
Moderna’s result means the risk of getting sick from COVID-19 was reduced by 94.5% between the placebo group and the vaccinated group in the large clinical trial underway of 30,000 people in the United States, according to an analysis preliminary of the very first cases: in this case, 90 participants in the placebo group contracted COVID-19, against 5 in the vaccinated group.
It is not yet clear how long the vaccine lasts, which only time will tell.
But if this level of effectiveness were the same in the general population, it would be one of the most effective vaccines available, comparable to that against measles, 97% effective in two doses, and much better than against influenza. (19-60% in recent years), according to the Center in Disease Control.
Pfizer’s vaccine is said to be 90% effective, and Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine 92%, according to initial results released last week. What makes Eric Topol, American expert, say that COVID-19 is “eminently vaccinable”.
No serious illnesses
“This is a pivotal moment in the development of our candidate vaccine against COVID-19,” said the boss of Moderna, Stéphane Bancel, rejoicing in particular that the vaccine seems to prevent serious forms of the disease.
No serious illness was recorded among the vaccinated people, against 11 in the placebo group.
Experts widely welcomed the news, despite the lack of detailed publication of the results.
“The light at the end of the tunnel is more and more bright,” responded the doctor, Harvard professor and author Atul Gawande, who has joined the team advising the next president, Joe Biden, on the pandemic. “We may have multiple highly effective vaccines widely distributed in the spring and summer.”
About 9-10% of people vaccinated experienced fatigue and stiffness after the second dose, and to a lesser extent other side effects including headache and redness around the injection site.
Moderna maintains that it will be able to produce 20 million doses by the end of December, and production has already started. It should be launched by the end of the year in Switzerland in the factories of the Lonza group.
If the vaccine were approved, the speed of development would be a scientific feat, less than a year after the virus was released from China.
It took nine years in the 1950s to develop the measles vaccine. The average development time for the 21 vaccines approved for ten years by the FDA was eight years.
The vaccine is given in two injections separated by four weeks. It should be transported at -20 ° C (compared to -70 ° C for Pfizer’s), but can then be stored thawed in a refrigerator (2 to 8 ° C) for 30 days.
It was co-developed with scientists from the National Institute of Infectious Diseases.
It is based on a recent technology (Moderna was created only in 2010), which had never been proven before: messenger RNA. Genetic instructions directly enter human cells, which they reprogram to make a coronavirus antigen on their own … to trigger an immune system response.