Moderna Requests Vaccine Authorization

Let the Reviews Begin

Two Fridays ago Pfizer (PFE) and BioNTech (BNTX) requested emergency approval for the COVID-19 vaccine they jointly developed. Now Moderna (MRNA) is following suit. Yesterday the biotech company asked American and European regulators for authorization of its new coronavirus vaccine after it performed well in a recent trial of 30,000 participants, showing 94.1% efficacy. In the trial, 196 participants contracted COVID-19. According to the results, 185 of those participants had taken the placebo. This means only 11 received the Moderna vaccine and still contracted the coronavirus.

In terms of next steps, outside experts advising the FDA on authorization for vaccines are now expected to meet December 10th to first discuss the Pfizer-BioNTech shot. At this meeting they will vote on whether or not the FDA should give the vaccine emergency use authorization. A week later, Moderna hopes experts will also evaluate its vaccine. If the FDA does grant emergency use authorization to the vaccines, distribution could start before the end of the year.

How COVID-19 Vaccines Work

Both Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna are using gene-based technology that has never been licensed for use prior to the coronavirus. Using what’s known as “messenger RNA,” scientists are able to send DNA instructions for how to generate certain proteins. Once prompted by the vaccines, human cells produce “spike proteins” which trigger an immune response that can help fight off the virus.

If Moderna’s vaccine is approved by the FDA, the company has said it can produce enough doses to vaccinate 10 million people. The trial also demonstrated the vaccine’s versatility. Its efficacy in people over 18 years old held consistent across races, ethnicities, and genders. Because of the vaccine’s limited initial production, healthcare workers and those on the front lines of COVID-19 will likely be the first to be vaccinated.

Partnering with Grocery Stores and Pharmacies for Vaccine Distribution

When the vaccines do arrive, many Americans will be able to access them through their local supermarket pharmacies. The Department of Health and Human Services has reached out to chains like Kroger (KR), Albertsons (ACI), and CVS Health (CVS) to eventually distribute the vaccines.

Those pharmacies are already getting in position. Food City, a grocery chain in the south owned by K-VA-T Food Stores, acquired 30 specialized freezers to store the vaccines, which need to be kept at a very low temperature. Other pharmacies are training staff and purchasing freezers, thermometers, and PPE in anticipation of vaccine approval. Most Americans will likely pay nothing for the vaccines, as they’ll be covered by tax dollars, health insurance, and government subsidies for the uninsured.

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