Biotech firm Moderna coronavirus vaccine trial announced positive results for its coronavirus vaccine development. The New England Journal of Medicine reported success in the first human study. In a trial involving 45 subjects, all were able to induce the desired immune response. It also stated that the vaccine was generally safe and free from adverse side effects. Noted were injection-site pain and usual symptoms such as fatigue, headache, and chills. This development opens the way for a larger trial to further test the vaccine.
Moderna’s mRNA-1273 vaccine instructs cells to create proteins that mimic coronavirus surfaces. The body then sees these proteins as invaders and activates an immune response.
Tuesday’s results consisted of three 15-man groups aged 18-55. Groups received 25, 100, or 250 micrograms of the vaccine. Each subject received two injections a month apart. Researchers found high levels of antibodies in subjects that received two doses. These levels are higher compared to patients who recovered from the virus.
The next phase of the testing will involve 30,000 adults beginning July 27. Researchers selected around 90 locations across the United States. Many of these sites are coronavirus hotspots in Texas, Florida, California, and Arizona.
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Dr. Fauci Hopeful
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases is “cautiously quite optimistic.” The fears generated by coronavirus may disappear by 2021 if vaccine development continues. Dr. Fauci noted that while no vaccine is 100% effective, he hopes that there will be enough protection. “…(W)with the combination of people having already been exposed and a vaccine that’s anywhere from 70-75% protective … there will be enough herd immunity that there will be a time when you and I don’t have to worry about getting infected with this awful virus.” Fauci adds that he is hopeful that the vaccine becomes ready “within the next year to year and a half.”
Outside of Moderna, there are more than 150 ongoing coronavirus vaccine-research programs. Out of these are 21 programs that have reached potential human testing stages.
Currently, knowledge of coronavirus immunity is still uncertain. Recent reports say that antibodies during a virus infection recede fast after recovery. Dr. Fauci says that he is confident that people have immunity, but he doesn’t know how long the immunity lasts.
Wall Street Celebrates
The market’s reaction to Moderna’s report was celebratory as well.
Shares of the company went up 4.5% at the end of Tuesday’s trading day. Moderna registered a 16% gain after in-house trading and share prices settled at $75.04. The company’s all-time high remained at $87 last May when they reported a successful Phase 1 test.
Assuming a successful trial and approval, this will be Moderna’s first licensed product. The company aims to produce between 500 million to a billion vaccines beginning 2021. Apart from its own plant, Moderna partnered with Swiss company Lonza to ensure supply.
Earlier, the federal government supported Moderna’s efforts by providing $483 million. The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority agreed to fund development for MRNA-1273. Share prices shot up 21% after the announced partnership.
Pandemic Still Raging
The race towards a successful vaccine comes at a very critical time. Earlier this year, most countries managed to contain outbreaks through the imposition of lockdowns. Preventive measures such as wearing masks and social distancing also helped.
Due to strict protocols, the economy suffered. As months went on, governments faced a dilemma. Do they maintain health and safety first by keeping everybody at home? Or do they revive the economy by going back to work despite the dangers? Unfortunately, reopening economies and resuming normal activities backfired for most countries. New cases sprung up when areas decided to open too soon.
At present, the World Health Organization reported 13 million cases worldwide. 7.3 million, or over half the cases have recovered, while deaths have totaled 575 thousand.
The United States has 3.5 million confirmed cases and is reporting an average of 60,000 cases daily since July. Totals deaths are at 138,000 while recoveries are at 1.03 million. To combat rising infection rates, California and Oregon shut down for the second time.
In the US, equating wearing masks to rights infringement further made things worse. With President Trump seen in public wearing a mask, opposition to them is dwindling. A recent Axios/Ipsos poll showed that 62% of Americans now wear masks compared to 53% in June. From 35% of all republicans wearing a mask in public, 45% now do so.
Watch this video of Moderna CEO on kick off of coronavirus vaccine:
The development of an approved vaccine poses the fastest way to contain the pandemic. Governments still need to mitigate the damage while waiting for the silver bullet. That can only happen if everybody takes the coronavirus threat seriously.
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