US firm Moderna’s jab may be 94.5 percent effective against the illness. And it may work across all age groups. The UK has already secured 40 million doses of a rival vaccine from Pfizer/BioNTech, which uses the same technology and should be here before Christmas. Dr David Nabarro, a special envoy of the World Health Organisation, said: “This is a really good result – 94 percent effectiveness for a new vaccine is stunning.” Yesterday Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the Government has negotiated to get five million doses of the Moderna vaccine. He added: “While there is much uncertainty, we can see the candle of hope and we must do all that we can to nurture its flame. But we’re not there yet. Until the science can make us safe we must remain vigilant.”
A Government spokesman said: “As part of the ongoing work of the Vaccine Taskforce, the Government is in advanced discussions with Moderna to ensure UK access to their vaccine as part of the wider UK portfolio. Moderna are currently scaling up their European supply chain which means these doses would become available in spring 2021 in the UK at the earliest.”
Scientists said the news bodes well for other vaccines, with the one from Oxford University and AstraZeneca due to report in the coming days or weeks.
Moderna intends to submit an application for emergency use with the US Food and Drug Administration shortly and will submit further data.
The final-stage clinical trial is ongoing and includes an ethnically diverse group of more than 30,000 people in the US.
Interim analysis included 95 participants with confirmed cases of Covid-19, of which 90 had received the placebo and five the vaccine.
Severe cases of coronavirus were also examined. All 11 occurred in the placebo group and none in those who had received the vaccine.
Dr Stephen Hoge, president of Moderna, said: “When we got the news from the data and safety monitoring board. I’ll admit I broke character and grinned ear to ear for a minute. Because I didn’t expect, I don’t think any of us really hoped, that the vaccine would be 94 percent effective.
“That was really a stunning realisation. It really means I think we have the tools necessary to finally beat this virus back.”
He was “looking forward to being able to supply substantial quantities to the UK”.
Pressed on the speed, he said: “It depends a little on those negotiations. I don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves.
“But we do have the ability to supply in the early part of next year and certainly we hope substantial quantities by the spring.”
Last month Moderna announced that the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency, had started a review of its vaccine.
Peter Openshaw, professor of experimental medicine at Imperial College London, said: “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.”
“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 refrigeration (2 to 8C). This makes the vaccine much easier to deliver.”
Professor Katherine O’Brien, of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, has said the Moderna vaccine requires two doses which would make it harder to roll out.
Stephen Evans, professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said that even if the efficacy turned out to be 85 percent, it would be greater than expected. And it seemed to prevent severe as well as mild disease.