Ninety-five percent? That’s a preliminary number from Moderna, whose COVID-19 Phase Three vaccine trial remains in progress. However, this report raises the potential for getting two vaccines with 90%-plus effectiveness to some Americans just in time to be a much-anticipated Christmas present:
Biotechnology firm Moderna announced Monday that a preliminary analysis shows its experimental coronavirus vaccine is nearly 95 percent effective at preventing illness, including severe cases — a striking initial result that leaves the United States with the prospect that two coronavirus vaccines could be available on a limited basis by the end of the year.
The news comes a week after pharmaceutical giant Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech lifted the stock market and people’s hopes with the news that their coronavirus vaccine was more than 90 percent effective. …
Moderna’s vaccine, co-developed with Fauci’s institute, is being tested in 30,000 people. Half received two doses of the vaccine, and half received a placebo. To test how well the vaccine works, physicians closely monitored cases of covid-19 to see whether they predominantly occurred in people who received the placebo group.
Of the 95 cases of covid-19, the disease caused by the virus, 90 were in the group that received the placebo. There were 11 severe cases reported — all in people who received the placebo. With cases of covid-19 confined almost exclusively to trial participants receiving a placebo, that sends a strong signal that the vaccine is effective at thwarting the virus.
The data have not yet been published or peer reviewed, and the overall effectiveness of the vaccine may change as the study continues. But Fauci said the data on severe cases was “quite impressive” and effectively answers a question that has lingered: whether a vaccine measured by its success in preventing any case of covid-19 can prevent the most urgent cases, too.
Keep in mind the term preliminary. Generally speaking, COVID-19 cases take a couple of weeks to develop at the outside, so it’s possible that there just hasn’t been enough time for cases to develop in either the target or control groups. Also, 95 cases is a very small sample against which to determine the effectiveness of a vaccine. It’s somewhat akin to doing a political poll of California with a sample of 150 adults. Even if this turns out to be accurate, it sounds as though we may still be a few weeks away from the finish line for Moderna’s study.