News Analysis: Pfizer’s and Moderna’s vaccines: is the end of COVID-19 pandemic imminent?



By Ismail Auwal

A couple of weeks ago, Pfizer in collaboration with its German partner announced the results of its phase 3 clinical trial, which demonstrate 90% efficacy for the company’s COVID-19 candidate vaccine. The candidate vaccine, which was developed using a recombinant DNA technology, was designed to stimulate immune response by mimicking the viral messenger RNA.

Thousands of volunteers were injected with a piece of generic material that mimics the SARS-CoV2 genetic make up, and an equal numbers were injected with a placebo (which is not pharmacologically active).

From the conception and design, to the execution of this vaccine, the development is unprecedented in the medical history. Typically, vaccine development takes a decade or near that before it finally gets licensed for public consumption. But COVID-19 pandemic was different. It challenged the world and the existence of humanity on earth. The world responded with an equal measure.

Although several red tapes were removed to accelerate the discovery of an effective COVID-19 vaccine, the regulators must be commended for maintaining rigorous checks to ensure that safety was not compromised in the whole process.

For apparent reasons, the news of this incredible success of Pfizer’s vaccine in a phase 3 trial gave unimaginable hope to the world that vaccines would be the turning point of this raging pandemic. While the world was still engrossed in the euphoria of Pfizer’s remarkable achievement, came in another good news from Moderna (US-based pharmaceutical company).

The company just announced that its candidate vaccine has demonstrated 95% efficacy in preventing COVID-19 infections. The trial was conducted on 30,000 volunteers, with the analysis based on the first 95 volunteers to develop COVID-19.

Only 5 of those vaccinated subsequently developed COVID-19 compared to 90 among those not vaccinated (placebo group). Additionally, no severe COVID-19 infections was reported among the only 5 in the vaccine arm. This sharply contrasts with 11 participants who got severe COVID-19 among those not vaccinated.

Certainly, this great news bolster the confidence of all stakeholders that these vaccines will play a key role in containing the prevailing pandemic. Importantly, the fact that many vaccines are reporting success stories, is a strong indicator that the vaccines commercial productions will be speedy to make available the desired doses to the majority, when eventually licensed.

Both Pfizer’s and Moderna’s are similar in terms of being developed using recombinant DNA technology.

A subtle difference between them is in the storage temperature. While Pfizer’s require a cold chain at -70 degree for long storage, Moderna’s can be stored at 20 degree, which is almost a room temperature. For low resource tropical countries, Moderna’s independence of cold chain makes it easy to store and transport across varying temperature range. It also eliminates the extraneous cost of infrastructures such as refrigerator and electricity.

As we look forward to receiving more good news from other candidate vaccines, we pray and hope that the regulators will not relent in their efforts of ensuring safety before the vaccines are licensed. The desire to maintain safety should also not be a reason for unnecessary bureaucracy.

We must act as one against this dreaded virus. Cost should not be a barrier in this fight against a devastating pandemic. Therefore, the pharmaceutical companies should not see this as profit making venture.

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