Moderna and Pfizer raise the bar for COVID-19 vaccines and may ward off competing candidates in development

Following the news that Moderna has announced its COVID-19 vaccine, mRNA-1273, is 94.5% effective in first interim data readout;

Michael Breen, PhD, Director of Infectious Diseases and Ophthalmology at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, offers his view:

“While the efficacy of Moderna’s offering is slightly higher than that reported for Pfizer/BioNTech’s candidate, the more pressing point is the fact that these vaccines achieved this outcome at all. One candidate seeing significantly more impressive results than the FDA’s usual bar was great news, but two is unprecedented.

“With these two seemingly effective vaccines possibly weeks from entering the clinic through Emergency Use Authorization, the path forward for other developers now remains unclear. While the most effective vaccines will ramp up production to meet global demand, the opportunity for less effective vaccines will wane – possibly leading the field to be winnowed sooner than later as developers may not see a lucrative future in a developing a vaccine which, even if effective, may be used for only one year.

“Of course, opportunity will still remain for multiple vaccines – even those with lower efficacy than offerings from Pfizer or Moderna, as those vaccines may not be available in all geographies, and those regions may go with their best vaccine option at the time.

“Moderna’s vaccine’s efficacy data exceeded expectations and could not have come at a better time. Like Pfizer, the length of time from concept, to clinic, to data readouts for Moderna’s vaccine – less than one year from the discovery of this novel coronavirus – is nothing short of remarkable.

“Furthermore, the results from both developers underscore the potential that mRNA technology has not only for addressing any infectious disease, but also as a rapid-response platform for dealing with emerging diseases.

“More data are needed for both vaccines that might highlight differences between them and inform how each should be used. It is entirely possible that both vaccines have similar efficacies across all groups, in which case they should both be rolled out as rapidly as possible.

“One key difference is that Moderna’s vaccine does not require deep-freeze storage, while Pfizer’s does. This creates significant logistical difficulties that could easily give the advantage for COVID-19 vaccines to Moderna.

“However, in the end, the broadening of our armamentarium to control the pandemic might be the boon that healthcare workers and economists alike have been longing for. These vaccines could not only offer a solution to the problem but can help accelerate the timeframe to recovering from the damage done.”

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