Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine on Friday became the second to receive emergency use authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), providing some welcome news to a country with a staggering COVID-19 death toll of over 312,000.
The FDA announced the authorization on Friday after the agency’s panel of outside experts on Thursday endorsed its use.
The decision marks the first regulatory authorization in the world for Moderna’s vaccine and validation of its messenger RNA (mRNA) technology, less than a year after the first COVID-19 case was identified in the U.S.
The biotech company has worked with the U.S. government to prepare for the distribution of 5.9 million shots as early as this weekend.
The FDA decision is based on results from a late-stage study of 30,000 volunteers that found the vaccine was nearly 95 per cent effective at preventing illness from COVID-19 with no serious safety concerns.
The authorization follows an emergency use authorization granted for a similar vaccine from Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech that has been put into the arms of thousands of U.S. health-care workers this week in a massive nationwide rollout.
Moderna’s shot is expected to be used in harder-to-reach locations, such as rural hospitals. The vaccine needs to be stored and shipped frozen, but does not require the ultra-cold temperatures of the Pfizer-BioNTech shot.
Once thawed, the Moderna vaccine can be kept at typical refrigerator temperatures. It is administered in two shots 28 days apart.
Moderna has deals with the U.S. government to provide 20 million doses this year and a total of 200 million doses by the end of June 2021.