5 things to know about Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine

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Boston-based Moderna Therapeutics released a plan Thursday morning outlining how it will determine whether its coronavirus vaccine, currently in development, is effective and safe. CBS News spoke with Moderna President Dr. Stephen Hoge for the CBS Evening News series Racing to a Cure.Here are our main takeaways from this conversation:

1. Moderna is working on a unique vaccine

The vaccine being developed by Moderna is an mRNA vaccine, which works differently from a typical vaccine. Instead of preventing infection, the vaccine aims to teach the body how to better fight the virus, reducing its severity.

“The goal of this vaccine – of all vaccines in this case – is to stop the pandemic that we all want to get back to normal life as best we can,” Hoge said. “Now the main efficacy measures that we are looking at are preventing serious illness from COVID-19. If we can reduce that to a cold then I think most of us will feel like we can get most of our lives back.

2. When will Moderna know if the vaccine is working?

Although the company has some initial data, Hoge said “it’s very difficult to know for sure.”

“We announced today that we have made good progress in enrolling the Phase 3 trial. So we actually enrolled over 25,000 out of 30,000 participants in this study. But now we’re going to depend on those people, unfortunately, who get sick, ”he said.

“Our best guess – the earliest possible would be the beginning or the end of fall – the time horizon of November, December. But it could happen much later or much sooner depending on the rate of transmission in the country, ”Hoge told me.

3. The first data suggest that the vaccine could protect the elderly patients as well as the younger ones

Seniors have been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus pandemic, with Americans 65 and older accounting for nearly 80% of COVID-19 deaths in the United States, according to CDC data. Hoge said early indications are that the Moderna vaccine protects older patients on an equal level with younger patients.

“What’s really exciting that we announced today is that we shared some data that we had previously presented to the CDC on older Americans who participated in our Phase 1 vaccine studies and showed that we had had the same level of protection in the elderly. as we have seen in younger populations, ”he said. “This gives us hope and reason to be optimistic that our vaccine will be able to protect populations most at risk, especially those over 65 who suffer the most from COVID-19. “

4. Hoge says he feels “social pressure” to get the vaccine approved

This week, President Trump publicly disagreed with the CDC chief, saying Redfield was “confused” when he testified that a vaccine might not be widely available until mid-2021. Hoge said he didn’t feel pressure from the government to speed up the vaccine trial, but felt the gravity of the moment.

“We haven’t felt any direct political pressure, but we definitely feel the social pressure of this moment,” Hoge said. “The goal of vaccine development is not to get a vaccine approved – it’s to stop the pandemic. It will only happen to hundreds of millions of people, hundreds of millions of Americans agree to vaccinate. This will only happen if they have confidence in the data and the vaccine. And so what we did today by releasing our fully unredacted protocol, but also what we did in our presentations. ”

5. Why Hoge Worries About Lack of Confidence in Science

“I think what concerns me most as a citizen as a person, as a scientist and as a citizen of this country right now, is that there is so much mistrust in so many directions – and not everything, you know, moved. ”

“Science works through transparency; it works by putting the data on the outside, so we’re trying to do our part to move that forward, ”Hoge said. “This process of peer review and open discussion on transparency is essential for good scientific decision-making. It’s a bit of a challenge to do it in the public arena. ”

“How do we continue the debate and ensure that we are making the right scientific choices and honestly presenting the uncertainties around those choices, while building confidence in the vaccine?” I think this is one of the biggest challenges we have in one of the things that keeps me awake at night – not for today, but for next year as we try to stop the pandemic. ”

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