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New Covid vaccine is 95% effective – but the UK hasn't bought any

Another possible coronavirus vaccine has been declared almost 95% effective, in ‘tremendously exciting’ news that will raise hopes that normal life could soon return.

Interim data from the US firm Moderna suggests its vaccine is highly effective in preventing people getting ill and also works across all age groups, including the elderly.

The UK has not placed an order for the vaccine – which works in a similar way to Pfizer’s – and it is unclear whether the British Government can get any stock. However, reports suggest that the UK is in ‘advanced negotiations’ for the product, having not bought it when the EU did.

But scientists said the news bodes well for other Covid-19 vaccines, with the one for Oxford University and UK pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca due to report in the coming days or weeks. The news comes one week after Pfizer and BioNTech released interim data suggesting their vaccine is also more than 90% effective.

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The firm’s ongoing trial involves more than 30,000 adults in the US.

The interim analysis involved 95 Covid-19 positive participants from a variety of backgrounds, of which 90 had received the placebo and five the active vaccine. 15 were aged 65 and older.

Moderna suggest data on the vaccine, known currently as mRNA-1273, does not indicate any significant safety concerns.

It said the vaccine was ‘generally safe and well tolerated’, adding that the majority of adverse events were mild or moderate in severity. Severe events after the first dose included injection site pain and after the second dose included fatigue, myalgia (muscle pain), arthralgia (joint pain), headache, pain, and redness at the injection site.

But these effects of the injection were generally short-lived, the company said, adding that the 94.5% effectiveness ratio could drop as more results come in.

Stephane Bancel, Moderna’s chief executive officer, said: ‘This is a pivotal moment in the development of our Covid-19 vaccine candidate.

‘Since early January, we have chased this virus with the intent to protect as many people around the world as possible.

‘All along, we have known that each day matters.

‘This positive interim analysis from our Phase 3 study has given us the first clinical validation that our vaccine can prevent Covis-19 disease, including severe disease.’

Peter Openshaw, professor of experimental medicine at Imperial College London, added: ‘This news from Moderna is tremendously exciting and considerably boosts optimism that we will have a choice of good vaccines in the next few months.

‘First we heard 90% efficacy from Pfizer and BioNTech, then the Russians said 92% and now Moderna says 94.5%.’

He continued: ‘This is based on a study of 30,000 US adults, including many high-risk or elderly persons.

‘This gives us confidence that the results are relevant in the people who are most at risk of Covid-19 and in most need of the vaccines.

‘Moderna have also announced that the vaccine can be kept in a conventional freezer (-20C) for up to six months, and that once thawed the vaccine can be kept for up to 30 days at standard refrigerator (2 to 8C). This makes the vaccine much easier to deliver.’

Moderna plans to apply for an Emergency Use Authorisation with the US Food and Drug Administration shortly and will then submit further data on the vaccine’s effectiveness and safety.

Stephen Evans, professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: ‘This announcement from Moderna is a further encouragement that vaccines will be found to not only have an acceptable efficacy, but an efficacy that is much greater than we had anticipated.’

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