AUSTIN, Texas - Monday U.S. Biotech Group Moderna reported its COVID-19 vaccine showed a 94.5 percent efficacy rate in clinical trials. The news comes on the heels of Pfizer and BioNTech’s report that their vaccine has been 90 percent effective in clinical trials.
Mark Lacy, CEO of Benchmark Research, a company running trials for Moderna in five cities including Austin called the efficacy rates “a wonderful surprise.”
Lacy said though the numbers are relatively standard for vaccines, they shocked those in the industry. “Many people were hoping for a 50 percent efficacy, or you know a little bit above that. They probably still would have approved that because that would have been a great help.” He said the efficacy rates were expected to be so low because “the coronavirus has so many quirks.”
Neither Moderna or Pfizer’s vaccine use the live virus. “You absolutely cannot get the virus from the vaccination,” said Lacy.
Pfizers vaccine must be stored at minus 94 degrees. Lacy says that may make distribution difficult. “That’s astronomical in the vaccine world. Minus 70 is generally where we go up to,” he explained.
Modernas vaccine requires a long-term storage temperature of minus four degrees. “That is something that we’re used to seeing in hospitals and most doctors offices as well.”
Moderna utilized government funding through Operation Warpspeed. Pfizer did not. “You’ve got two different paths that are doing something somewhat similar and coming up with the same results.” said Austin-based vaccine-trial participant Abby Strite.
The two companies are expected to submit for FDA Emergency Use Authorizations. Both are in “phase three” of trials, the final phase before they can submit for the authorization.
Lacy said during the third phase, researchers look at “whoever's gonna go out and get a vaccination.” He said it is important to ensure those with comorbid conditions, essential workers, and those of diverse ages and races are included in the third trial phase.
“If all the stars align I think we’ll see the first people being vaccinated prior to the beginning of the year,” he said. Stressing the importance of having “three to five” vaccines on the market, for manufacturing and distribution purposes.
“The point was to have a trial that met all the requirements for efficacy and safety and so in whatever way I could contribute to that, I’m just grateful I had the chance to do that,” said Strite who participated in a Moderna trial at the Be Well Clinic in Cedar Park through Advanced Clinical Research.
Strite, a 36-year-old Airforce Veteran, and mother told FOX 7 Austin she felt her risks participating in the study were low, and the rewards, great. “To be honest it just felt like a no-brainer right? They needed people. I’m a person.”
Strite experienced pain at the injection site after her first shot. After the second, she had side-effects she equates to a hangover. “It wasn’t that bad, I rested and I got through it.” she said.
Strite does not know if she received the vaccine or placebo. Either way, she hopes her experience will encourage, not scare others. “I don’t want them to be put off from getting the vaccine cause of the fact that they may feel sick for a day,” she said.