A new vaccine that protects against Covid-19 is nearly 95% effective, early data from US company Moderna shows. The results come hot on the heels of similar results from Pfizer, and add to growing confidence that vaccines can help end the pandemic. Both companies used a highly innovative and experimental approach to designing their vaccines.
Moderna says it is a "great day" and they plan to apply for approval to use the vaccine in the next few weeks. However, this is still early data and key questions remain unanswered.
The trial involved 30,000 people in the US with half being given two doses of the vaccine, four weeks apart. The rest had dummy injections. The analysis was based on the first 95 to develop Covid-19 symptoms. Only five of the Covid cases were in people given the vaccine, 90 were in those given the dummy treatment. The company says the vaccine is protecting 94.5% of people.
The data also shows there were 11 cases of severe Covid in the trial, but none happened in people who were immunised.
Dr Stephen Hoge, the company's president, said he "grinned ear to ear for a minute" when the results came in.
He said: "I don't think any of us really hoped that the vaccine would be 94% effective at preventing Covid-19 disease that was really a stunning realisation." That depends on where you are in the world and how old you are.
Moderna says it will apply to regulators in the US in the coming weeks. It expects to have 20 million doses available in the country. The company hopes to have up to one billion doses available for use around the world next year and is planning to seek approval in other countries too.
The UK has announced that, from spring, it will have five million doses of the Moderna vaccine, enough to vaccinate 2.5 million people. It has already outlined plans that prioritise the oldest people for immunisation.
There are hints it offers some protection in older age groups, who are most at risk of dying from Covid, but there is not full data.
No significant safety concerns have been reported, but nothing, including paracetamol, is 100% safe. Short lived fatigue, headache and pain were reported after the injection in some patients.
"These effects are what we would expect with a vaccine that is working and inducing a good immune response," said Prof Peter Openshaw, from Imperial College London.
Both vaccines use the same approach of injecting part of the virus's genetic code in order to provoke an immune response.
The preliminary data we have seen so far is very similar - around 90% protection for the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and around 95% for Moderna's. However, both trials are still taking place and the final numbers could change.
Moderna's vaccine appears to be easier to store as it remains stable at minus 20C for up to six months and can be kept in a standard fridge for up to a month.
Pfizer's vaccine needs ultra-cold storage at around minus 75C, but it can be kept in the fridge for five days.
The Sputnik V vaccine, developed in Russia, has also released very early data which suggests it is 92% effective.