An advisory panel working for the Food and Drug Administration voted to recommend Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine for emergency use authorization, nearly one week after Pfizer’s vaccine was approved. The panel itself isn’t a part of the FDA, but is a crucial part in the process of a new vaccine being approved for public consumption.
The Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee met this Thursday and unanimously voted 20-0 in favor of the vaccine’s approval. Now the FDA will review the committee’s analysis and trial data, like they did with Pfizer, and will likely start sending out the vaccine next week throughout the nation.
The committee’s unanimous vote indicates that each expert on the panel believes that the scientific evidence gathered from Moderna’s clinical trials prove the benefits of the vaccine outweigh the risks for individuals 18 years or older. Dr. James Hildreth is the president and CEO of Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee and was a member of the panel who recently spoke with the press about how hopeful he was after looking through all the data.
“To go from having a sequence of a virus in January to having two vaccines available in December is a remarkable achievement.”
The committee’s main role is to provide solid advice to the FDA for moving forward in terms of vaccine distribution. Members have obviously been quite busy the past two weeks as now two vaccines are receiving the green light to be administered to Americans starting this month. For the Pfizer and BioNTech vaccine, frontline healthcare workers and other priority groups (nursing home residents) began receiving their initial doses this Monday.
Panel member Dr. Hayley Gans, a pediatrician at Stanford University Medical Center and professor of pediatrics, claims that with Moderna’s vaccine “the evidence that has been studied in great detail highly outweighs any of the issues we’ve seen and it really supports us being able to put the pandemic in our background, really move forward and finally provides a safe and effective way to get to herd immunity.”
The Moderna vaccine reportedly is 94% effective in providing immunity against the coronavirus; Pfizer’s is just as effective as well. One of the biggest hurdles that healthcare workers/vaccine administers have had to deal with in terms of Pfizer’s vaccine is the fact that it has to be stored at ultra-cold temperatures beyond what standard pharmaceutical freezers typically can handle.
Moderna’s vaccine, on the other hand, can be kept at a standard freezer temperature, which would make it much easier to store and allow it to be distributed to more vaccination sites throughout the nation who may not have the technology to store Pfizer’s vaccine.
Both of the vaccines require two separate doses; the Pfizer vaccine’s second dose must be given 21 days after the first while Moderna’s can be given 28 days later.
These vaccines couldn’t have come at a better time, as America is currently in the worst phase of the pandemic yet. More than 17 million people have been infected with Covid-19 and over 310,000 people have died. As case numbers surpass 100,000 daily and deaths surpass 1,000, the federal government is continuing to debate whether or not to give its citizens $600 or not and is continuing to allow the states to determine what establishments remain open to curb the spread.
While President-elect Joe Biden has made numerous policy promises in terms of curbing the spread, he won’t be taking office for another month, and as we’ve seen, a lot of damage can be done in a month.
Eric Mastrota is a Contributing Editor at The National Digest based in New York. A graduate of SUNY New Paltz, he reports on world news, culture, and lifestyle. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.