Race for COVID vaccine – Pfizer vs Moderna: Which is a better fit?

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A little over a week after Pfizer’s vaccine announcement, another US biotech company, Moderna said its experimental shot is 94.5 per cent effective in preventing coronavirus in the initial analysis of a late-stage clinical trial. Both Pfizer and Moderna shots rely on a technology called messenger RNA which has never been used to build an approved vaccine.

The encouraging results from Pfizer Inc. and Moderna Inc. have put both the companies on track now to get permission for emergency use within weeks. How exactly are the two vaccines different from each other?

Pfizer and BioNtech Vaccine BNT162b2

– Nearly 40,000 participants, 94 contracted COVID

– Vaccine was over 90 per cent effective after the second dose

– Must be stored at ultra-cold temperatures until 5 days before use

– Needs to be stored at -94°F

– Needs to be diluted by whoever is delivering the shot

– 50 million doses expected to be manufactured by end of 2020

– The companies may charge $20 per dose for its vaccine

Moderna Vaccine mRNA-1273

– 30,000 participants, 95 symptomatic cases

– Vaccine was 94.5 per cent effective in preliminary trials

– May be stored at standard refrigeration temperature for up to a month before use

– Shot is stable for a month at refrigeration temperatures between 36°F to 46°F

– Does not require dilution

– 20 million doses expected to be available by the end of 2020

– May cost between $32 and $37 per dose

With manufacturers nearing the end of clinical trials of the vaccines, the next challenge is the logistics. According to the logistics firms, no company in India has the capability to transport and store vaccines at -70°C. We at ET NOW spoke to B Thiagarajan, MD, Blue Star, India, he said, “We have a certain technology, but I don’t think in a short span of time country can prepare itself -70°C…I believe it will be either 2-8°C or -20°C.”

But there is something common in the vaccines being manufactured by Pfizer and Moderna. Both the companies are developing COVID-19 vaccines made with a brand-new technology called messenger RNA. While conventional vaccines contain the weakened antigen, messenger RNA vaccine instructs cells to produce the protein of its choice. The vaccine tells the cells to make copies of the spike protein of the coronavirus, stimulating the creation of protective antibodies. If a person is exposed to the virus these antibodies will recognize the proteins on the virus. This will in turn help the immune system to detect and destroy the virus before it causes illness.

The vaccines are certainly a big hope for the Covid-stricken world. And the RNA vaccines are faster to produce than traditional vaccines, making them a lucrative option. But, with millions and millions of lives at stake, there may be a number of hurdles before a vaccine gets the final go-ahead.

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