Is Moderna going to beat Pfizer / BioNTech in the vaccine race? After an already promising announcement last week, it is the turn of the American biotech company Moderna to assure Monday that its vaccine is 94.5% effective.
This is additional good news, which opens up optimistic prospects for a more or less long-term exit from the health crisis, but also presents undeniable clinical advantages. Because, although these two solutions may not be that different, Moderna is still one step ahead.
As a reminder, conventional vaccines can be made from inactivated viruses (polio, flu), attenuated viruses (measles, yellow fever), or simply from proteins called antigens (hepatitis B). But in the case of Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech, as well as Moderna, strands of genetic instructions called Messenger RNA, that is, the molecule that tells our cells what to do.
The advantage is that with this method, there is no need to cultivate a pathogen in the laboratory, it is the organism that does the work. It is for this reason that these vaccines develop more quickly. Disadvantage: the vaccine, wrapped in a protective lipid capsule, must be stored at a very low temperature, because RNA is fragile.
Modern vs Pfizer
And it is in this last point that Moderna stands out from Pfizer. The latter requires -70 ° C, a much lower temperature than standard freezers, and this has forced the group to develop specific containers, filled with dry ice, to send the doses.
So what that of Moderna is stored at -20 ° C, which will require maintaining the cold chain from the factory to the pharmacies. This vaccine, which is given in two injections four weeks apart, can then be stored thawed in the refrigerator (2-8 ° C) for 30 days. It is not yet clear how long the vaccine lasts and only time will tell.
Based on these good results, Moderna plans to apply for marketing authorization “in the next few weeks” in the United States. If the vaccine were approved by the United States Drug Administration (FDA), the speed of development would be a scientific feat, less than a year after the probable release of the virus from China.