Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine has been all but authorised for use in the United States after it was on Thursday given overwhelming approval by advisers to the American drugs regulator.
A panel of advisers to the US Food and Drug Administration endorsed emergency use of Moderna’s jab, virtually assuring a second vaccine against Covid-19 for a country that has been ravaged by the pandemic.
The committee voted 20-0 with one abstention that the benefits of the vaccine outweigh its risks in people aged 18 and older, one week after the same panel backed a similar vaccine from Pfizer and BioNTech, leading to an FDA emergency use authorisation a day later.
US officials have said they expect to have 40 million doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines by the end of the year – enough to inoculate 20 million people. Both vaccines were about 95 per cent effective at preventing illness in clinical trials with no serious safety issues.
Unlike Pfizer’s vaccine, which comes with complex distribution challenges due to its need to be shipped and stored at -70C (-94F), Moderna’s vaccine does not require ultra-cold freezers or vast quantities of dry ice, making it easier to supply rural and remote areas.
The FDA is expected to grant the authorisation as early as Friday, providing another ray of hope to a nation that has lost more than 300,000 lives to Covid-19 – including a single-day high of 3,580 deaths on Wednesday – while record numbers of patients threaten to overwhelm US hospitals and healthcare workers.