- On Monday, the biotech company Moderna released preliminary data that, so far, shows a 94.5% effectiveness rate in its COVID-19 vaccine candidate.
- The news comes a week after Pfizer and BioNTech announced a 90% effectiveness rate in their joint vaccine.
- While this is undoubtedly hopeful news and could indicate success for other vaccine candidates, several questions have not yet been answered.
- For instance, it is unknown how long either vaccine provides immunity, how effective they are at preventing asymptomatic cases, and if they are as effective among older people.
- Still, Moderna’s vaccine has one major advantage over Pfizer’s vaccine since it’s able to be stored at regular fridge temperatures, as opposed to an ultra-cold negative 94 degrees Fahrenheit.
Moderna Announces Its Vaccine Is 94.5% Effective
Moderna released preliminary data on its COVID-19 vaccine candidate on Monday, which it now says is 94.5% effective.
That announcement comes one week after Pfizer and its partner BioNTech released similar data that showed their joint vaccine is more than 90% effective. It also comes as the United States logged a single-day record of 180,000 new cases on Friday and has now crossed 11 million confirmed cases since January.
Moderna’s trial, now in its late stages, involves 30,000 people. Of that, half were given two doses of the vaccine, and the other half were given placebo injections.
So far, in total, 95 people in the study have contracted COVID-19. That’s where the 94.5% figure comes in, because of those 95, only five cases have come from people who were given the vaccine.
On top of that, while 11 of those 95 cases have been severe, Moderna said all 11 came solely from the placebo group.
Moderna’s Vaccine Solves a Key Problem
Moderna and Pfizer’s vaccines are very similar. Both use genetic material known as mRNA to target a protein on the surface of the coronavirus. Thus, given Pfizer’s announcement last week, it had been expected that Moderna would soon follow up with its own promising results.
To note, both Moderna and Pfizer’s vaccine efficacy rates can change as the last little bit of data pours in, but if they hold up and if this data stands up among reviewers, it would blow expectations out of the water. While anyone would hope for the best possible vaccine, realistically, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has been ready to approve — at minimum — a vaccine that is only 50% effective.
It’s also too soon to begin comparing which of these vaccines has better efficacy. In fact, Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel told Business Insider that it would be “naive” to compare Pfizer’s 90% efficacy with Moderna’s 94.5% efficacy.
That’s because there’s still a host of unknowns. For example, it is still unclear for either vaccine how long immunity will last. It’s also possible that immunity could differ between age groups, as some vaccines are less effective in older people.
It’s also unknown how effective the vaccines are at stopping asymptomatic infections and thus, the spread of the virus. For example, it’s possible that the vaccines could confer enough immunity to keep an infected individual from becoming symptomatic; however, that person could still run the risk of spreading the virus.
Still, Moderna’s vaccine does have one key advantage over Pfizer, so much so that if both vaccines do end up having near the same level of effectiveness, Moderna could still edge out Pfizer as the more viable vaccine.
That’s because Pfizer’s vaccine must be shipped at negative 94 degrees Fahrenheit — meaning it needs dry ice and special containers. From, there it is able to be stored at normal fridge temperatures (36 to 48 degrees Fahrenheit) for up to five days.
Meanwhile, Moderna’s vaccine candidate can be shipped and stored at normal fridge temperatures for up to 30 days.
What’s Next for Moderna?
Both Pfizer and Moderna plan to apply for emergency-use authorization later this month. Still, it is unclear how long it’ll take for the FDA to make a decision on whether to approve these vaccines.
If and when these vaccines are approved, they are going to be very limited. Very likely, the first vaccines are going to be reserved for people who are more at risk of contracting COVID-19. That includes people who have underlying conditions, as well as healthcare workers.
As far as when these vaccines could become widely available, Bancel suspects that’ll happen somewhere around Memorial Day, which will fall on May 31 next year.
By the end of next year, Moderna hopes to have a billion doses available — enough to vaccinate 500 million people around the world. That’s on top of the 1.3 billion doses Pfizer and its partner BioNTech hope to have by the end of next year.
To properly put an end to the pandemic, there will need to be more than just one safe and effective vaccine. Simply put, one company’s vaccine isn’t going to be able to vaccinate the whole world.
Just as Pfizer’s data boded well for Moderna, Monday’s news could also bode well for Johnson & Johnson, as well as Astrazeneca. Both companies have vaccine candidates that are in late-stage trials, and while they don’t use mRNA, both of their vaccines target the same protein that Pfizer and Moderna are targeting.
See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (BBC) (Reuters)
Florida Breaks Its Record for New Daily COVID-19 Cases and Hospitalizations
The Sunshine State now accounts for 20% of all new COVID-19 cases nationwide.
Florida Becomes COVID Epicenter
Florida reported 10,207 COVID-19 hospitalizations on Sunday, marking its largest single-day count to date. The grim record comes just one day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data showing that the state had counted 21,683 new infections Friday, its highest record of daily cases since the start of the pandemic.
Florida has become the new epicenter of the most recent U.S. outbreaks driven by the delta variant. The state now accounts for one out of every five new cases, and the weekend numbers are highly significant because they surpass previous records that were logged before vaccines were readily available.
Notably, Florida’s vaccination rate is actually the exact same as the nationwide average of 49% fully vaccinated, according to The New York Times tracker. In fact, Florida’s rate is the highest among the top 10 states currently reporting the most COVID cases.
While Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) has encouraged Florida residents to get vaccinated, he and the state’s legislature have also made it much harder for local officials to enforce protections to mitigate further spread.
DeSantis Bars Masking in Schools
On the same day that the state reported its highest cases ever, DeSantis signed an executive order banning school districts from requiring students to wear a mask when they go back to school later this month.
The move directly contradicts guidance issued by the CDC last week, which recommended that everyone inside K-12 schools wear a face covering.
DeSantis, for his part, has repeatedly claimed the spikes are part of “seasonal” increases driven by more people being indoors and air-conditioning systems circulating the virus. Still, he argued also Friday that he did not think masks were necessary to prevent children from transmitting COVID in the classroom, where they are inside with air conditioning.
At the same time, last week, Florida reported more than 21,000 infections among children younger than 19.
Florida is not the only state that has banned schools from requiring masks. In fact, many of the states suffering the biggest spikes have done the same, including Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Texas — which all currently rank among the top 10 states with the highest per capita COVID cases.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (Axios)
Biden to Mandate COVID Vaccines for Federal Workers as CDC Changes Masking Guidance
News of the efforts came on the same day that the U.S. reported more than 100,000 new daily COVID cases for the first time since February.
Federal Vaccine Mandate
President Joe Biden will announce Thursday that all federal employees must get vaccinated against COVID-19 or consent to strict testing and other safety precautions, White House officials told reporters Tuesday.
Earlier in the day, Biden said he was considering the requirement but did not provide any more information.
While the officials also said the details are still being hashed out, they did note that the policy would be similar to ones recently put in place by California and New York City, which respectively required state and city workers to get the jab or submit to regular testing.
Also on Tuesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated their guidelines to recommend that Americans who live in areas “of substantial or high transmission,” as well as all students and teachers, wear masks indoors regardless of their vaccination status.
Delta Causes Spikes, But Vaccines Still Prove Effective
The renewed COVID mitigation efforts come as the delta variant is driving massive surges all over the country.
Coronavirus cases have quadrupled throughout July, jumping from a weekly average of 11,799 on the first day of the month to 63,248 on Tuesday, according to The New York Times tracker. Tuesday also saw new daily infections topping 100,000 for the first time since February, with more than 108,000 reported, per The Times.
While the vast majority of new infections are among people who have not been vaccinated, there have also been increasing reports of breakthrough cases in people who have received the jab.
Those cases, however, do not mean that the vaccines are not effective.
No vaccine prevents 100% of infections. Health officials have said time and time again that the jabs are intended to prevent severe disease and death, and they are doing just that.
According to the most recent data for July 19, the CDC reported that only 5,914 of the more than 161 million Americans who have gotten the vaccine were hospitalized or died from COVID-19 — a figure that represents 0.0036% of vaccinated people.
While safety precautions may be recommended for some people who have received the vaccine, many media narratives have overstated the role breakthrough cases play in the recent spikes. As New York Magazine explains, it is imperative to understand these new mask recommendations are not happening because the vaccine is not effective, but because not enough people are getting the vaccine.
“Because breakthrough infections have so often made the news due to their novelty, that can create a perception of more cases than are actually happening — particularly without more robust tracking of the actual cases to provide context,” the outlet wrote.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (CNBC)
Wisconsin Police Deny Planting Evidence in Viral Video, Release Their Own Body Cam Footage
The footage police released shows that during a search, officers found a corner tear from a plastic bag inside a backseat passenger’s pocket. An officer then discarded it into the car after determining that it was empty.
Viral Video Appears To Show Officer Planting Evidence
The Caledonia Police Department in Wisconsin has responded to a viral cell phone video that appears to show an officer planting a small plastic baggie inside of a car during a traffic stop.
The now-viral footage was posted to Facebook by a man who goes by GlockBoy Savoo.
The user, who also filmed the clip, wrote in his post’s caption that the officer did this “just to get a reason to search the car” and said the cop didn’t know he was being recorded by the passenger.
Police Shut Down Accusations With Their Own Footage
After that video spread across social media, many were outraged, calling the Caledonia police dirty for seemingly planting evidence. All the outrage eventually prompted the department to announce an investigation Saturday.
Within hours, the department provided an update, claiming that officers didn’t actually plant any evidence or do anything illegal.
Police shared a lengthy summary of events, along with two body camera clips from the incident. That statement explained that the driver of the vehicle was pulled over for going 63 in a 45mph zone.
Two passengers in the backseat who were then spotted without seatbelts were asked to identify themselves and step out of the car. During a search of one passenger’s pockets, an officer pulled out “an empty corner tear” from a plastic baggie.
Police claim the corner tear did not contain any illegal substances, though they said this type of packaging is a common method for holding illegal drugs.
In one body cam clip, an officer can be heard briefly questioning the backseat passenger about the baggie. Then, that piece of plastic gets handed off to different officers who also determined it as empty before the officer in the original viral video discarded it into the back of the car.
The officer can also be seen explaining where the plastic came from to the passenger recording him.
“Aye, bro you just threw that in here!” the front seat passenger says, as heard in his version of the events.
“Yeah, cause it was in his pocket and I don’t want to hold onto it. It’s on their body cam that they took it off of him…I’m telling you where it came from, so. It’s an empty baggie at the moment too, so,” the officer replies.
The department went on to explain that while it would discourage officers from discarding items into a citizen’s car, this footage proves that evidence was not planted.
Authorities also noted that no arrests were made in this incident and the driver was the only one issued a citation for speeding. The statement added that since four officers were present at the scene, police have more than six hours of footage to review but they promised to release the footage in full in the near future.