A new Covid-19 vaccine candidate is almost 95 percent effective, its American manufacturer has said, potentially giving it the edge in the race to defeat the virus.

US-based biotechnology company Moderna announced on Monday that the two-dose mRNA-1273 vaccine it is developing has an efficacy of 94.5 percent, based on the results of a Phase-3 study, involving over 30,000 people.

In the clinical trials, 90 cases of Covid-19 were observed in the group given the placebo, compared to five cases among those given the vaccine.

It comes as a rival vaccine by US-based Pfizer and German firm BioNTech was found to have an efficacy of 90 percent, while the developers of Russia’s Sputnik V vaccine reported a 92 percent efficacy.

“The overall effectiveness has been remarkable…it’s a great day,” Moderna’s chief medical officer, Tal Zaks, told BBC News. 

The company now intends to apply for an emergency use authorization with US regulator the Food and Drug Administration in the coming weeks.

Europe’s health regulator, the European Medicines Agency, said on Monday that it had started a real-time “rolling review” of Moderna’s vaccine candidate, following similar checks on Pfizer and AstraZeneca’s vaccines.

Moderna expects to have 20 million doses of its vaccine ready to ship to the US by the end of the year and said it remains “on track” to manufacture between 500 million and a billion doses globally in 2021.

It also announced on Monday that its vaccine has a better shelf life and stability than that of Pfizer’s, which must be stored at -70 degrees Celsius, or -94 Fahrenheit.

Moderna’s vaccine only needs to be refrigerated at between two to eight degrees Celsius (36 to 46 Fahrenheit) – standard fridge temperature – for 30 days, and it can also be stored for six months at -20 degrees Celsius (-4 Fahrenheit).

But a course of two jabs of the Moderna vaccine costs $50 to $60, making it more expensive than several of its would-be rivals.
AstraZeneca’s jab is priced at $3 to $4, while Johnson & Johnson’s is $10, as is a joint vaccine candidate by Sanofi and GSK.

The World Health Organization says there are currently 48 Covid-19 vaccine candidates in development globally.

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