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Moderna Vaccine Around 95% Effective Shows Promise For End Of COVID-19 Pandemic

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A San Diego partner of Moderna talks of the company's promising vaccine. The news of its success comes just a week after another company, Pfizer and its partner BioNTech, announced its experimental vaccine was over 90% effective following phase 3 clinical trials.

Speaker 1: 00:00 This summer hundreds of San Diego ones were among the test subjects for the COVID vaccine developed by Moderna. Now their efforts have paid off with the company reporting. The vaccine is more than 94% effective against the Corona virus. This news comes a week after drug company. Pfizer announced a 90% effective vaccine and both successful trials come, not a moment too soon, California and the rest of the country are experiencing the biggest surge yet of the virus. Officials say the increase in cases will probably get worse in the weeks to come joining me as KPBS science and technology reporter. Shalina Chad Lonnie. Shalina welcome.

Speaker 2: 00:42 Hey, glad to be here. Tell

Speaker 1: 00:43 Us about the differences and the similarities between the Moderner and Pfizer vaccines.

Speaker 2: 00:49 Sure. Um, so let me give you a little bit of background. These are novel types of vaccines that haven't been done before at this level. There've been some preclinical and clinical trials to show their promise. These are M RNA vaccine. So we have vaccines that are pretty common that we know about one, you know, where you get a little bit of the germ or virus that's put into your body to initiate an immune response. Um, it's just enough to get that immune response, but not to make you sick. And then there's another type that uses a specific part of the virus like proteins or sugars. They go into the body. They're not as strong, but they require booster shots. So those are a couple, right, but M RNA vaccines use genetic information, not the actual infectious material like the other vaccines. Once this type of code is injected, it asks cells to build whatever antibodies or immune responses needed to fight off the disease.

Speaker 2: 01:42 That's why it's called messenger RNA. So the pro is that these are very safe because they don't have the actual virus. So Pfizer and Moderna have made both of these. But the main difference between the two is that Pfizer's version has to be kept at extremely cold temperatures. So we're talking colder than winters in Antarctica, minus 70 degrees Celsius, but Moderna is, has to be capped at around minus 20 degrees Celsius, just like your common refrigerator. These are the key differences that could impact how these vaccines are distributed because Pfizers could require some special technologies to keep it, um, at the proper temperature for transportation,

Speaker 1: 02:23 The Moderna vaccine reported great success at the end of its phase three clinical trial, what has to happen now for it to get FDA approval?

Speaker 2: 02:32 So I believe that Moderna is already taking the steps to present the vaccine and its data to the FDA to get approval. And, you know, the experts that I talked to say that at least for emergency use authorization, which is a type of fast-tracked approval made for, you know, serious circumstances like frontline workers, hospital workers, nurses, um, essential workers might need to access to a vaccine more quickly than other people in the population. That's what emergency use authorization is for it's a fast-tracked approval, so that I think could happen, you know, in the coming weeks to a couple of months. Um, but for the vaccine and total to be distributed, it probably has to go through a few more safety protocol steps with the FDA and more revision of the data dr. Telles Zacks, which is the chief medical officer from four Moderna had told CNN earlier this week that he does think that he could start to get millions of doses out by the end of the year, by the end of this year,

Speaker 1: 03:35 We said that in the United States, we expect to have 20 million doses.

Speaker 2: 03:39 And remember we have, you know, 300 billion plus people in the United States. So it's going to take longer. And that's the point that San Diego immunologists Carl were made. I spoke to him, um, this week he's from the Sanford Burnham previs medical discovery Institute.

Speaker 3: 03:55 It's going to take probably at least six months to a full year to get enough people vaccinated that we might be able to see, you know, really come out of this dark tunnel infection.

Speaker 1: 04:07 Do we know how long an immunity from either of these vaccines might last

Speaker 2: 04:13 In my conversation with where that was sort of the unknown point, right? So we are still sort of new at these vaccines and with coronavirus in general, it's a, you know, the virus can mutate and so it might require another version of the vaccine, but it's, it's unknown, right? With influenza. We have to get different shots every year because there could be a different strain, but with coronavirus, it's so new, um, that it's still unclear to scientists, how long immunity will last with either of these particular vaccines. You know, it's too early to tell until the vast majority of the population is vaccinated.

Speaker 1: 04:54 And in addition to these two vaccines, are there other vaccines in the pipeline? There,

Speaker 2: 04:59 There are other vaccines that are going, that have hit phase three clinical trial. Um, one that we hear about a lot is the one from AstraZeneca, the university of Oxford, um, they were in phase two phase three clinical trials, but they did experience a safety concern with one of their participants. They got past that they're continuing their, their data work. Um, but they're one of a handful of companies that are working on the vaccine right now, and that have made it to the stage of data collection. Um, so there are other vaccines in the pipeline.

Speaker 1: 05:34 Okay. I've been speaking with KPBS science and technology reporter Shalina Chatwani Shalina. Thank you. Thank you.

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Maureen Cavanaugh and Jade Hindmon host KPBS Midday Edition, a daily radio news magazine keeping San Diego in the know on everything from politics to the arts.