Moderna executive says storage temperature is a big plus for COVID-19 vaccine candidate

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TORONTO – Moderna has announced that preliminary data shows its COVID-19 vaccine appears to be 94.5% effective, with the chief operating officer of the company saying one of the candidate’s biggest benefits is the way it can be stored. In an interview with CTV News, Moderna COO Ray Jordan explained that the company’s coronavirus vaccine can be stored at standard refrigerator temperatures compared to other candidates. Jordan said it would help eliminate shipping and distribution issues.

“You have the option of keeping it at -20 degrees Celsius, which is basically normal freezing temperature at home or medical freezing temperature for up to six months, including 30 days at normal refrigerator temperature,” Jordan said in an interview on Monday.

“It’s pretty consistent with the medical infrastructure used in wholesalers, doctors’ offices and pharmacies,” he added.

Last week, competitor Pfizer Inc. announced that its own COVID-19 vaccine also appeared to be effective, but the candidate must be kept at -70 ° C during transport and storage to remain effective.

While it’s exciting to have two COVID-19 vaccine candidates showing promising results, Jordan says the temperature gives Moderna an advantage.

“We believe our vaccine has an attractive quality in terms of how it can be shipped. We understand that some require ultra cold shipping, ours doesn’t require ultra cold or dry ice or other things that might be more difficult to distribute, ”he said.

Where the two candidates are similar is in their dosage. Moderna and Pfizer’s vaccines both require two doses, and Jordan said logistics will still need to be organized, as will whoever gets the vaccine first.

“I would love to be at the top of that line, but the line needs to be set based on the risk of individuals and the allocation associated with the governments providing the vaccine,” Jordan said.

VACCINE STUDY

Moderna’s vaccine, created with the National Institutes of Health, is being studied in 30,000 volunteers who received either the actual vaccination or a placebo. On Sunday, an independent oversight committee looked at the 95 infections that were recorded two weeks after the volunteers’ second dose. The independent oversight committee found that all but five of the diseases occurred in participants who received the placebo, resulting in an efficacy of 94.5%.

“Preliminary provisional data [shows] Very interesting efficacy indications at the highest efficacy levels seen in the vaccine are well tolerated by those in the trial, ”said Jordan.

Of the 95 infections reported, 11 were considered serious and all occurred in the placebo group. The independent oversight committee also found that there were no significant safety concerns for the vaccine candidate.

Moderna’s vaccine study is blinded, so neither the participant nor the people who administer the vaccine know who received the vaccine or the placebo. Only the independent oversight committee knows who received what blow.

“The management is to be as careful as you normally would in society, so that then has the effect of creating control over the experimental group,” Jordan explained.

Moderna’s vaccines and the Pfizer candidate are mRNA vaccines and are made without the coronavirus itself, which means there is no chance anyone can catch it from the vaccine. Instead, the vaccine contains a piece of genetic code that trains the immune system to recognize the enriched protein on the surface of the virus.

While Jordan says Moderna’s results are “very promising,” he acknowledged that the study is continuing and the rate of protection may change as more COVID-19 infections are detected and added to the calculations. Moderna said it was also too early to know how long the protection against her vaccine lasted.

Jordan said Moderna did not have a timeline for the remainder of the study, but participants should be followed for two years.

The company plans to request emergency use of the vaccine in the United States in the coming weeks.

The main side effects of the vaccine candidate include fatigue, muscle aches and pain at the injection site after the second dose, at rates Moderna characterized as more frequent than with the influenza vaccine, but on par with others such as the shingles vaccine.

Jordan said most of the side effects reported were mild or moderate and were “very short-lived”.

ACCESS TO VACCINES, PRICES AND SALE OF STOCK

Moderna’s vaccine is one of 11 candidates in advanced testing around the world.

Canada has gained access to a total of 414 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines from various sources, including 76 million from Pfizer and 56 million from Moderna.

While Moderna expects to have around 20 million doses for the United States by the end of 2020, Jordan said he does not know how many doses are destined for Canada during the first phase of production.

Jordan said the company has not set a fixed price for the vaccine and is in negotiations with various countries. He said the vaccine candidate would likely be between $ 32 and $ 37, depending on volumes.

Despite the apparently good news, the sale of shares by the pharmaceutical companies responsible for producing the COVID-19 vaccines is worrying some experts.

The last time Moderna released positive information about its vaccine candidate, some company executives sold their stock the same day, raising concerns about their product’s profit valuation. The same also happened when Pfizer announced the effectiveness of its vaccine.

Jordan explained that sales of Moderna shares by executives are orchestrated through a program that automatically arranges trades when the stock hits a certain price.

“What we saw happen is that the increase in prices associated with the news release hit some of the triggers that executives had to sell,” he said.

Despite fears that selling shares following news of positive results could show a lack of confidence in the vaccine, Jordan said that is “absolutely not” the case with Moderna.

“Sales weren’t what you might think of calling a broker and saying, ‘Sell it now.’ It was these programs that [were] put in place over the previous weeks, months or years that were triggered, ”he said.

While the issue of selling shares has raised red flags for some, others are concerned about companies rushing to get a COVID-19 vaccine without following scientific protocols.

Moderna’s recent results are only an interim analysis, and Jordan says the company plans to go through the appropriate channels to ensure that the results of its trials are scientifically reviewed.

“Our intention is to provide a full analysis for a peer-reviewed review, which is consistent with what we did with our Phase 1 trial,” Jordan said, adding that parts of the review of his data from phase 1 had already been completed.

However, he says reviewing the results of Phases 2 and 3 will take time, as those trials are still ongoing.

While Moderna is confident about its vaccine’s results so far, that doesn’t mean the company will ship doses soon.

Jordan says Moderna is still waiting for the clinical trial to know for sure whether the vaccine is safe.

“Until you run the clinical trial and see what’s going on in the real world, you don’t know for sure, so we were definitely on pins and needles waiting to see what it looks like. “, did he declare.

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