Covid vaccines: Two positive reports in a week is 'hugely significant'

The Moderna vaccine could be available in the UK by the spring of 2021. Credit: PA

Exactly a week ago we got the news that Pfizer's Covid vaccine was showing results that it is 90% effective.

The world (I think I can make this assumption) took a huge, collective sigh of relief.

Now, seven days on and another pharmaceutical company, Moderna has announced equally good results. Its vaccine is as good as 95% effective.

This is hugely significant. It means the Pfizer trials and subsequent results were not an anomaly. It hardens the argument that we will get a vaccine and one that is effective in stopping people getting the virus.

The Moderna vaccine works in the same way as Pfizer's and there are a few differences which make it more attractive to use. 

It doesn't need special freezers to keep it at -70c like Pfizer's, an ordinary freezer will do and it will last for 30 days once defrosted in a fridge.

This means transportation, distribution and storage will be much simpler. Moderna's vaccine has also been tested on a large number of elderly and high risk people.

In fact, seven thousand were over 65 (30,000 people were involved in total) and five thousand had conditions like diabetes or obesity.

A large number were also from ethnic minority communities, key groups of people.

Morderna is now putting its vaccine forward for regulatory approval, as Pfizer is, so there are still hoops to jump through. Both also have to finish the phase three trials, which should be done within weeks. The UK has ordered 40 million does of Pfizer's vaccine but none of Moderna's.

This will be a sticking point for the UK government but I understand one of the reasons behind not pre ordering Moderna's was that the US company does not have a smooth operation with Europe - it is also not able to scale up quickly in Europe, unlike Pfizer. 

Although now in advanced discussions with Moderna, the Government also points out that any order won't be delivered until spring 2121, whereas we are expecting 10 million doses from Pfizer before the end of this year.

The UK Government has ordered millions of doses of the Pfizer vaccine. Credit: PA

Orders aside, neither Pfizer nor Moderna's vaccine showed any serious side effects. Only 10 per cent of those who were vaccinated a second time had mild effects, like aches and tiredness, symptoms officials say would be expected when your body's immune system is working hard.

All in all, this is good news and bodes very well for the other vaccine developers who are still to finish their trials and I'm thinking specifically of the Oxford vaccine trial which will hopefully announce results in the coming weeks.