Moderna vaccine a breakthrough for Irish distribution, immunisation chair says

ireland
Professor Karina Butler said the fact that the vaccine did not require the same ultra-cold storage as Pfizer’s was “a significant advantage”. Photo: AFP via Getty Images.
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Reporting by Vivienne Clarke and Reuters

The announcement that Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine has a 94.5 per cent protection rate against the disease has been described as “very exciting news” by the chair of the National Immunisation Advisory Committee.

Professor Karina Butler, an infectious diseases specialist at the Royal College of Physicians, said the fact that the vaccine did not require the same ultra-cold storage as Pfizer’s was “a significant advantage”.

The news of the second successful Covid-19 vaccine trial was a breakthrough and this was “an extraordinary day,” she told RTÉ radio’s News at One.

The Moderna vaccine is expected to be stable at standard refrigerator temperatures between 2 and 8 degrees Celsius for 30 days, and can be stored for up to six months at -20 degrees Celsius.

Pfizer’s vaccine must be shipped and stored at -70 degrees Celsius, the sort of temperature typical of an Antarctic winter. At standard refrigerator temperatures, it can be stored for up to five days.

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Lots of work had already been done in terms of planning for the distribution of the vaccine, Prof Butler said.

Those who need it and are least likely to have an adverse effect would be a priority, as would healthcare workers, she added.

Side effects

When asked if the vaccine was rushed, Prof Butler said: “There are very large numbers involved when you combine both studies, most, not all, but most side effects are found within six weeks.”

Most side effects identified in the Moderna study were mild to moderate. A significant proportion of volunteers, however, experienced more severe aches and pains after taking the second dose.

Most of these complaints were generally short-lived, the company said.

Moderna is the second company in a week to report results from a coronavirus vaccine that far exceed expectations, as Pfizer and BioNTech said their vaccine offered 90 per cent protection against Covid-19.

That means this technology is reproducible, if you like, and that gives us even more hope

Speaking this morning before Moderna’s announcement, Luke O’Neill, professor of immunology at Trinity College Dublin, said both results were a sign of hope.

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Moderna's Covid-19 vaccine shows 94.5% protection
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“If they get the same level of efficacy, that’s a great result because it means two completely separate companies have got the same sort of outcome, and it’s independent of each other,” he said.

“That means this technology is reproducible, if you like, and that gives us even more hope.”

The vaccines, both built using new technology known as messenger RNA or mRNA, represent powerful new tools to fight a pandemic that has infected 54 million people worldwide and killed 1.3 million.

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