Dr. Anthony Fauci, the U.S.’ top infectious disease official, has expressed optimism that early data from Moderna’s Covid-19 phase 3 vaccine trials will show it to be as promising as Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine candidate, which early results Monday showed to be 90% effective at preventing infection — just before Moderna announced that it is preparing to submit early findings for independent analysis.
Speaking at the Financial Times’ Live Global Pharmaceutical Summit Wednesday, Fauci, who has spent nearly four decades as the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told the summit that he would “be surprised if we didn’t see a similar degree of efficacy” to Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine.
Fauci said the similarity between the two vaccines, both using pioneering mRNA technology, is driving his optimistic outlook, with the two vaccines being “identical in many respects.”
Later that day, Moderna announced that it had reached the point in the study where it could start planned early analysis, adding that it was preparing to submit data to an independent Data Safety Monitoring Board.
Though optimistic about Moderna’s pending results, Fauci stressed that the crisis was still “very, very far from” over, adding that it was likely Covid-19 would remain and circulate in the population for years.
With global Covid-19 cases now beyond the grim milestone of 50 million, a safe and reliable vaccine is likely the best and fastest way to bring the pandemic to heel. To date, no vaccines have been approved for full use, while vaccines in Russia and China have been approved despite incomplete trials. Pfizer and BioNTech released early results for their Covid-19 vaccine Monday, showing it to be 90% effective at preventing the disease, cementing its status as a frontrunner in the race to develop a vaccine. The figure is high, and indicative of a much higher effectiveness than some authorities had said they were willing to accept (the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said it was willing to accept a vaccine effective in 50% of people). At the event, Fauci said he had not expected a “result as striking” as seen. Moderna’s vaccine, using similar technology to Pfizer’s, is also considered a frontrunner, a status that could soon be cemented with their pending results. While President Donald Trump was swift to praise Pfizer’s announcement, President-elect Joe Biden offered a realistic acknowledgement of the country’s Covid-19 situation, saying that while the news is “excellent… It’s important to understand that the end of the battle against COVID-19 is still months away.”
No mRNA vaccine (which stands for messenger RNA and carries codes for virus proteins into the body) has been brought to market successfully. If these Covid-19 vaccines are approved, it would mean a giant leap forward for vaccines and how they are developed. Fauci said the successful early data from Pfizer and Moderna is “a major step not only for Covid-19 but for the entire field of vaccinology.”
Recent research suggests that having a mental illness could play a role in catching Covid-19, with those with pre-existing psychiatric conditions 65% more likely to be diagnosed, even when other risk factors are accounted for. The finding took researchers by surprise, prompting calls for further investigation to figure out why this might be the case.
What To Watch For
Despite Pfizer receiving no money from the U.S. government’s Operation Warp Speed to develop its vaccine, officials, including President Trump, daughter and advisor Ivanka Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, have been swift to falsely claim credit for the work and peddle baseless conspiracies that Pfizer, the Democrats and the FDA delayed announcing its success to deny him a pre-election “WIN.” It’s possible Trump and his allies will similarly politicize Moderna’s vaccine.
The World Health Organization is investigating mink farming around the world over concerns that the animals might pass dangerous new Covid-19 strains on to humans, some of which could threaten the effectiveness of vaccines currently in development. Denmark ordered the cull of its entire mink herd for this reason, with at least 214 people infected with mink-related Covid-19 since June.