- BBC World News
This Monday the Moderna company published preliminary data on its new vaccine against covid-19, ensuring that it is almost 95% effective.
The announcement comes days after Pfizer and the developers of the Russian Sputnik V vaccine released similar results.
Both Moderna and Pfizer develop RNA vaccines, a highly innovative and experimental approach that involves injecting part of the virus’s genetic code into the body.
Both companies indicated that they plan to apply for approval to use their vaccines in the coming weeks.
But, while these announcements provide hope and optimism, experts ask for caution: all data published so far are preliminaries and many key questions remain unsolved.
The three vaccines that so far have published data on their effectiveness have been tested in tens of thousands of people, have not presented major safety problems or unexpected adverse reactions have been reported in injected volunteers.
However, it is not yet known how long the immunity granted by vaccines lasts, as volunteers will have to be followed for a longer time to know.
Additionally, none of the companies have provided a breakdown of the vaccine’s effectiveness across different age groups, although Tal Zaks, Moderna’s chief medical officer, told the BBC that their preliminary data suggests the vaccine “does not appear to lose its potency. ” with the age.
It is also not known whether vaccines simply keep people from getting seriously ill or whether they can also help to stop the spread of the virus.
And just as importantly, all companies are still testing, so the final numbers for their effectiveness could change.
In recent days, the results published by Pfizer, Moderna and the developers of Sputnik V have increased our chances of ending the pandemic and the economic and health crisis it has generated.
Results that exceed expectations
Before Pfizer and BioNTech announced on November 9 that their coronavirus vaccine works in 9 out of 10 cases, the scientific community believed that an eventual injection would protect by perhaps 50%.
But that theory has been overthrown with reports published in the past week suggesting that not only can you create a vaccine, you can get one that is highly effective.
Data from the three vaccines that have shared preliminary reports raises hope that the others that are also in development will also work.
Professor Peter Openshaw of Imperial College London told the BBC that the Modern vaccine news, the latest to publish its data, is “extremely exciting“.
“Optimism considerably increases that we will have a selection of good vaccines in the coming months,” he said, before adding that more complete details are needed than those published on Monday in order to claim victory.
Stephen Evans, professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), also says that the news received in recent days is encouraging.
“The fact that the efficacy of the three vaccines exceeds 90% means that it is almost certain that we will find multiple vaccines that work and protect against SARS-CoV-2. It is a much higher percentage than any of us, experts in the field, would have expected, “he tells BBC Mundo.
However, like most, he also insists that “much more data” is necessary to know especially how effective the vaccine is in older people.
After the publication of these results, many wonder: how close are we to the long-awaited vaccine?
Closer than expected
First, the trials must show that the vaccine is completely safe and that it prevents people from getting sick or at least helps reduce the death toll.
Later, regulators must approve it so that it can be managed.
For Professor Stephen Evans, we are closer to getting a vaccine than previously thought.
“Companies must provide regulators with a full report from phase 3 of the trials that will be evaluated in conjunction with other reports from previous trials. All of this could happen during the Christmas season or early January, but regulators have said that some vaccines will have at least an emergency use authorization and these could already be distributed and given to people even earlier. ”
However, to begin vaccinating millions of people, Evans estimates that we will likely have to wait until the end of january, February or even March.
The expert highlights that some vaccines will reach certain countries faster.
“Most likely rich countries will have access to the vaccine sooner than those with fewer resources, but the delay should be small, “he says.
“The United States will probably have access to almost all vaccines quickly. In the United Kingdom, for example, the Moderna is expected to arrive a little later, if at all.”
The Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) is committed to working so that the vaccine reach countries of entrys mediums and lows, this plan includes the one developed by the Moderna company.
Evans is optimistic about the success of the plan, but warns that the collaboration of governments will also be needed.
When a vaccine is finally approved, other challenges will present itself. One of them will be to reach billions of people around the world.
To store the Pfizer vaccine, for example, you need keep it under ultra-cold temperatures around -75 ° C, although it can be kept in a refrigerator for five days. This will present logistical problems when transporting the vaccine to remote locations.
Moderna’s vaccine appears to be easier to store, as it can be kept at -20 ° C for up to six months and kept in a normal freezer for up to a month.
Pfizer believes it will be able to supply 50 million doses by the end of this year and about 1.3 billion by the end of 2021, while Moderna expects to have up to 1 billion doses worldwide next year.
Another one that raises high expectations is the AstraZeneca and Oxford vaccine, which has agreed to supply 2 billion doses globally, should it be approved.
In some countries, such as the UK, older people will have priority When it comes to obtaining the vaccine, while in others like France priority will also be given to people who do jobs considered risky, such as drivers or salespeople.
Experts cannot agree on when the world will return to normal, but most agree that having a vaccine, and using it in conjunction with better treatments, will be the way out of this global crisis.
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