Pharmaceutical giant Moderna has said its experimental vaccine was 94.5 per cent effective in preventing Covid-19 based on interim data from a late-stage clinical trial, following rival Pfizer’s good test results last week.
Health secretary Matt Hancock this evening announced that the UK has secured 5m doses of the vaccine, following crunch talks with Moderna executives today.
The Covid-19 vaccine news lifted shares in leisure companies in London, with Easyjet, IAG and Cineworld all adding to daily gains.
US stocks also surged on the news, with the S&P hitting record highs this afternoon as cruise operators welcomed hopes of a return to service.
Meanwhile, conferencing software and Covid-19 star Zoom saw shares almost four per cent amid signs that office reopenings linger on the horizon.
Today’s breakthrough announcement today from Moderna was met with subdued optimism this side of the Atlantic, as the UK admitted it had failed to order doses of the vaccine.
The UK had until today “spread its bets” by ordering 350m doses from six companies producing different types of coronavirus vaccine.
But the overwhelming success of Moderna’s vaccine in late-stage clinical trials forced the UK to enter “advanced discussions” with the US company this afternoon.
The health secretary managed to bag an initial 5m doses of the vaccine, but Moderna president Dr Stephen Hoge said he hoped his firm would be able to supply “substantial quantities” of its coronavirus vaccine to Britain in the future.
Initial doses of the vaccine will become available in spring 2021 in the UK at the earliest.
The batch comes on top of the 40m doses of Pfizer and Biontech’s vaccine, which sent shockwaves across global markets last week as it became the first coronavirus vaccine to prove overwhelmingly successful in clinical trials.
The vaccines, both built using new technology known as messenger RNA or mRNA, represent powerful new tools to fight a pandemic that has killed 1.3m so far.
Hoge was bullish on the outlook on the end of the coronavirus pandemic, telling reporters: “We are going to have a vaccine that can stop Covid-19.”
Moderna’s interim analysis was based on 95 infections among trial participants who received either a placebo or the vaccine.
Of those, only five people contracted Covid-19 in those who received the vaccine. The vaccine was administered in two shots 28 days apart.
Easier to distribute
Although trials of the Moderna vaccine were smaller than the multi-country ones held by Pfizer, the Moderna product may prove easier to distribute globally because it does not have to be stored and transported at sub-zero temperatures like Pfizer’s.
Together with Pfizer’s vaccine, also more than 90 per cent effective, the US could have two vaccines authorised by December.
Back in August, US President Donald Trump ordered 100m doses of the Moderna vaccine candidate.
Next year, the US could have access to more than 1bn doses from two vaccine makers, more than its 330m residents.