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Moderna says it can start analyzing how well its COVID-19 vaccine works

David Brancaccio, Nancy Marshall-Genzer, and Alex Schroeder Nov 12, 2020
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Biotechnology company Moderna protocol files for COVID-19 vaccinations are kept at the Research Centers of America in Hollywood, Fla., on Aug. 13, 2020. Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images
COVID-19

Moderna says it can start analyzing how well its COVID-19 vaccine works

David Brancaccio, Nancy Marshall-Genzer, and Alex Schroeder Nov 12, 2020
Heard on:
Biotechnology company Moderna protocol files for COVID-19 vaccinations are kept at the Research Centers of America in Hollywood, Fla., on Aug. 13, 2020. Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images
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Just days after Pfizer said its COVID vaccination was more than 90% effective, Moderna says it’s moving to a new phase of testing and analysis for its vaccine.

Marketplace’s Nancy Marshall-Genzer has the news. The following is an edited transcript of her conversation with “Marketplace Morning Report” host David Brancaccio.

Nancy Marshall-Genzer: You have to have a certain number of infections before you can determine if a vaccine is effective. In Moderna’s vaccine trial, half of the 30,000 participants got the vaccine. The other half got a placebo. Moderna says around 50 of the volunteers have now gotten COVID-19. So, now it will analyze how many of them received the vaccine versus the placebo.

David Brancaccio: And what kind of vaccine is this one?

Marshall-Genzer: It’s the same type Pfizer is making. They’re not like a typical vaccine, which involves injecting inactivated virus into a patient. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use messenger RNA. The vaccine prompts the body to produce COVID-19’s spike protein. A person’s immune system then learns to attack and destroy it.

Brancaccio: OK, so apparent progress, but distribution is a big hurdle.

Marshall-Genzer: That could be a challenge, at least in developing countries. These vaccines need to be kept very cold, below freezing. That’s not such a problem in the U.S., but could be difficult in other nations. Moderna has already agreed to supply 100 million doses to the U.S.

COVID-19 Economy FAQs

What’s the outlook for vaccine supply?

Chief executives of America’s COVID-19 vaccine makers promised in congressional testimony to deliver the doses promised to the U.S. government by summer. The projections of confidence come after months of supply chain challenges and companies falling short of year-end projections for 2020. What changed? In part, drugmakers that normally compete are now actually helping one another. This has helped solve several supply chain issues, but not all of them.

How has the pandemic changed scientific research?

Over the past year, while some scientists turned their attention to COVID-19 and creating vaccines to fight it, most others had to pause their research — and re-imagine how to do it. Social distancing, limited lab capacity — “It’s less fun, I have to say. Like, for me the big part of the science is discussing the science with other people, getting excited about projects,” said Isabella Rauch, an immunologist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Funding is also a big question for many.

What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?

Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”

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