US President Donald Trump announced on Friday that “approval” had been granted to Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine, clearing the way for the distribution of a second inoculation against the deadly coronavirus within days of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine.
“Moderna vaccine overwhelmingly approved,” Trump tweeted. “Distribution to start immediately.” He added that “vaccines are on their way” to Europe and other countries hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Trump’s announcement came even as the world awaited the Moderna vaccine’s formal authorisation by the US Food and Drug Agency (FDA), according to news reports.
According to a Bloomberg report, FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn said the agency was working quickly towards authorising the vaccine, which a panel of outside advisers backed on Thursday in a 20-0 vote.
Moderna’s two-dose vaccine is similar to the Pfizer-BioNTech one; both have been developed using the mRNA technology. But it is said that Moderna’s vaccine is more convenient to store as it can be kept in refrigerators commonly available at health care facilities. In contrast, the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine vials need much colder temperatures for storage.
Meanwhile, US vice-president Mike Pence took a Pfizer vaccination shot on camera, seeking to demonstrate its safety to Americans who are sceptical of vaccines. President-elect Joe Biden and former presidents Bill Clinton, George W Bush and Barack Obama have said they intend to take their shots publicly, to reassure people distrustful of vaccines.
The United States is witnessing a sharp increase in new Covid-19 cases, with more than 233,000 infections and 3,270 deaths reported in the last 24 hours, according to the Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus tracker.
Frontline health care workers and residents of long-term nursing homes are being prioritised for vaccination, which began to be administered in the US on Monday with the Pfizer vaccine’s shots. Nearly 3 million would have been administered the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine by the end of the week at 600 sites.
Moderna, which developed its vaccine with US health agencies and received federal funding, plans to distribute 20 million doses this month in addition to the 25 million shots supplied by Pfizer-BioNTech.
In all, Moderna has committed to supplying 200 million doses in the US by the second quarter of 2021.