Moderna’s Vaccine Is Poised to Roll Out in the U.S.

The FDA is expected to authorize a second vaccine and more Friday vaccine updates

Credit: SOPA Images/Contributor/Getty Images

There are now 18 vaccines in phase 3 clinical trials and five approved for limited use. Two have been approved for full use: Pfizer’s vaccine in the U.S. and a handful of other countries and CanSinoBio’s vaccine in China. Moderna’s vaccine is poised to soon become the third.

FDA advisory panel recommends Moderna’s vaccine for emergency use authorization

Echoing last week’s Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel on Pfizer’s vaccines, a panel of experts met on Thursday in another grueling daylong summit to discuss emergency use authorization for Moderna’s vaccine. Among a variety of topics covered, they discussed the ability of the vaccine to prevent transmission of Covid-19 (which isn’t a given; vaccines are designed primarily to prevent disease) and deaths and serious adverse events observed in the company’s 30,000-person trial.

As my colleague Dana Smith wrote in the Coronavirus Blog, when it comes down to it, Moderna’s vaccine isn’t all that different from the Pfizer vaccine: Both rely on new mRNA-based vaccine technology, are roughly 95% effective at preventing Covid-19, and have similar safety profiles, with side effects being more common after the second dose and in people over the age of 65. “While perhaps the lack of differences sounds a bit anticlimactic, the news is actually very, very good,” she wrote. “Two equally effective, equally safe vaccines essentially doubles the number of people who can be vaccinated, getting us out of the pandemic that much faster.”

With the recommendation of the advisory panel, the FDA is expected to approve Moderna’s vaccine within days.

Pharmacists discover extra doses of Pfizer’s vaccine in the bottles

In an unexpectedly happy twist of fate for 2020, pharmacists administering the Pfizer vaccine discovered that the vials contained extra doses — instead of the expected five doses, vials contain six or even seven. Together, the excess could increase the very limited U.S. vaccine supply by up to 40%, Politico reported on Wednesday. The same day, the FDA approved the use of those extra doses, clearing up the confusion that previously led some pharmacists to discard excess doses out of fear of breaking the FDA’s rules.

Vice President Mike Pence publicly receives the Pfizer vaccine

On Friday morning, Vice President Mike Pence received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine on national TV. The move was considered a symbol of reassurance, targeted toward people who are skeptical or hesitant of vaccination, that the vaccine is safe. Neither President Donald Trump nor his wife, Melania, have shared plans to receive the vaccine, let alone publicly. Some experts who talked to the New York Times praised Pence’s move, but others pointed out that it further blurs the stance of the White House, which has also held maskless gatherings and had a number of positive Covid-19 cases throughout recent months.



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Yasmin Tayag

Yasmin Tayag

Editor, Medium Coronavirus Blog. Senior editor at Future Human by OneZero. Previously: science at Inverse, genetics at NYU.