The quest for effective vaccines to combat the ravaging coronavirus has recorded another breakthrough with a United States-based biotech firm, Moderna Inc, saying on Monday that its experimental vaccine was 94.5 per cent effective in preventing the disease, according to an analysis of its clinical trial.
The report from multiple sources including BBC, Reuters and The Guardian comes a week after Pfizer and BioNTech said their vaccine was more than 90 per cent effective.
The results for both vaccines were from interim analyses of large clinical studies.
An interim analysis of the Moderna released on Monday, and based on 95 patients with confirmed COVID-19 infections found the candidate vaccine has an efficacy of 94.5 per cent.
In the result from the Moderna study, there were 30,000 volunteers; half got two doses of the vaccine 28 days apart; half got two shots of a placebo on the same schedule.
There were 95 instances of COVID-19 illness among the study participants — only five of those cases were in the vaccinated group. Ninety were in the group receiving the placebo.
Of these, there were said to be 11 cases of severe disease. The results indicate the vaccine was inducing the kind of immune response that protects people if they were exposed to the coronavirus.
Chief Executive Officer of Moderna, Stéphane Bancel, was quoted as saying in a statement, “This positive interim analysis from our Phase 3 study has given us the first clinical validation that our vaccine can prevent COVID-19 disease, including severe disease.”
Moderna said it had improved the shelf life and stability of its own vaccine, meaning that it can be stored at standard refrigeration temperatures of 2C to 8C for 30 days.
The company said it planned to apply to the US regulator, the Food and Drug Administration, for emergency-use authorisation in the coming weeks.
The results are the latest encouraging news to emerge from the breakneck effort to develop a vaccine against coronavirus and follow a similar interim analysis earlier this month from a collaboration between Pfizer and the German firm BioNTech, which suggest its vaccine is 90 per cent effective at preventing illness.
The Moderna vaccine is however not expected to be available outside the US until next year.
The biotech company said it would have 20m doses ready to ship in the US before the end of 2020 and hoped to manufacture 500 million to one billion doses globally next year.
So far, the UK does not stand to benefit from the vaccine. Moderna has agreed to provide the US with 100 million doses, with an option to buy 400m more. Japan, Canada, Switzerland, Qatar and Israel have also signed agreements, and the European commission has a “potential purchase agreement” for 80m-160m doses. The UK chose not to participate in the EU vaccine purchase scheme, with the health secretary, Matt Hancock, arguing in July that the government could source vaccine faster on its own. However, a Whitehall source said the UK government was in “advanced discussions” to procure doses of the Moderna vaccine.
The Moderna vaccine, which is based on similar mRNA technology as BioNTech’s, is expected to be assessed by the FDA on a final analysis of 151 COVID cases among trial participants who will be followed on average for more than two months.
If the results remain as impressive as the trial goes on, the Moderna vaccine could potentially provide a major advantage over the Pfizer vaccine.
While Pfizer’s vaccine requires ultracold freezing between -70C and -80C from production facility to patient, Moderna said it had improved the shelf life and stability of its own vaccine, meaning that it can be stored at standard refrigeration temperatures of 2C to 8C for 30 days.
It could be stored for six months at -20C for shipping and long-term storage, the company said.
Cost and side effects
At £38 to £45 for a course of two shots, Moderna’s vaccine is more expensive than the other frontrunners. AstraZeneca and Oxford University are aiming to sell their vaccine at about £3 a dose, while vaccines in trial with Johnson and Johnson and collaboration between Sanofi and GSK are both expected to cost about £8 a dose.
Pfizer is charging the US about £30 for a two-shot course. The UK has ordered 40 million Pfizer shots but none of the Moderna vaccine.
Moderna’s two-shot vaccine injects genetic material called mRNA into the body, which cells then use to churn out the spike protein the virus uses to invade cells.
The spike protein covers the surface of the virus and is one of the main targets of the body’s immune response to wipe out the infection.
A question mark that remains over the Pfizer vaccine is whether it prevents serious illness.
The Moderna results, released by an independent data safety monitoring board, are encouraging on this point. Of 11 participants who developed severe COVID while on the trial, all were in the placebo group. The results also suggest the vaccine is effective in older people and those from diverse ethnic backgrounds.
Moderna’s interim analysis includes a safety review of data available so far.
The company said it had found no significant safety concerns, with most reactions being mild to moderate and short-lived.
Among the side effects reported is the injection site pain in 2.7 per cent of trial volunteers after the first jab.
After the second, the most significant side effects include fatigue in 9.7 per cent, muscle pain in nine per cent and joint pain in five per cent. Others had headaches; others pains, or redness at the injection site.
Peter Openshaw, professor of experimental medicine at Imperial College, London, said the Moderna results were “tremendously exciting” and boosted optimism that a choice of good COVID vaccines would be available in the next few months.
Obasanjo worries about depreciating economy, govt appointments based on favouritism
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo has expressed concern about the current state of affairs in the country, especially the continued drop in living standard.
He lamented that government’s appointments were based on “favouritism” and not merit or competence.
The former president said this in a statement while felicitating the Federal Government College, Kaduna, on its 50th anniversary.
He said the economic situation in the country had increased hardship, insecurity, and affected the quality of leadership.
According to him, leaders are more concerned about their selfish interests than the country’s survival, adding that the religious tensions in the country have been intentionally instigated by politicians.
“Once again, our nation is dancing on the precipice and some of us are truly worried about the state of affairs today. I expressed that worry in my open letter to Nigerians and Nigerian youths on New Year’s Day,” he said.
“As I stated in the letter; ‘If we fall prey again, we will have ourselves to blame and no one can say how many more knocks Nigeria can take before it tips over. To be forewarned is to be fore-armed.’ Of course, I pray that Nigeria will never tip over. We must constantly work at it and pray.
“My worry is premised on a number of issues. First, I am concerned that the current state of our nation’s economy has widened the gulf of inequality and left many people in despair. Inflation is on the rise; poverty and hardship have returned to many households. The last decade has reversed many of the economic gains that were made in the first decade of the century. There is a general sense of hopelessness across the nation with seemingly uncontrollable insecurity.
“In addition to the economic hardship is political mischief. Never have we been so politically divided along religious, ethnic and other fault lines and deliberately so. Appointments in government are skewed and lopsided on basis of nepotism and mediocrity and disregard of merit and competence.
“Elections are here and may compound the problem. Political parties and politicians have now been emboldened to discard some of the things that were put in place to give all groups a sense of belonging. Exclusion is being taken as normal. Disunity stares us in the face and many of our leaders are more concerned about their selfish interests than the survival and health of our nation.”
Speaking further, Obasanjo urged Nigerians to change the political course of the country by participating actively in the forthcoming elections.
The former president said the concerns raised about the presidential candidates are real, adding that Nigerians would have themselves to blame if they do nothing about the situation.
The statement read, “Let me reiterate that the concerns being raised about the nature of the options before us in the presidential elections for instance are real and should not be trifled with.
“Nigeria belongs to us all and no part of the country should be left in doubt about their place in this union on any basis whatsoever; ethnic, religious, language, region, culture or social standing.
“The beauty of democracy is that the options before us cannot be imposed on us if we all do what we need to do to send a message to those who have had the audacity to present those options to us with little or no interest for the 225 million Nigerians.
“If we choose to do nothing, we will only have ourselves to blame. If we choose to do the right thing, we will by so doing return this country on the right track; one which gives all our people a sense of belonging and a sense of unity of purpose and a stake in the project Nigeria; a project that will give all of us peace, security, stability, shared prosperity, hope and progress and a place within the comity of nations.”
Updated: Postpone visit to Kano, Ganduje advises Buhari over fuel, new naira anger
Governor of Kano State, Abdulahi Ganduje, has made a request to President Muhammadu Buhari to put on hold his planned visit to the state.
Ganduje’s reason, according to a statement by his media aide, Abba Anwar, is to avert possible embarrassing breakdown of law and order by the ordinary citizens over the complications arising from the fuel scarcity and scarcity of the newly redesigned naira.
Ganduje was quoted to have stated this before some professionals who visited him at the Government House on Friday.
He was quoted as telling his visitors, “As we are waiting for this important visit, we find ourselves in this situation, which puts citizens into untold hardship. For security purposes, we wrote to the Presidency that President Muhammadu Buhari’s visit to Kano be postponed.
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“We got an acknowledgement copy of the letter. People are really suffering because of this policy.”
Among the visitors were said to be two serving senators from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Barau Jibrin and Kabiru Gaya, 20 members of the House of Representatives and 30 legislators from the State House of Assembly.
The governor quoted as saying that it has become difficult to transact businesses even with the Point of Sale (POS).
The situation is said to have led to many traders closing their businesses.
“This problem affects all of us.Therefore, our voice must be heard in all nooks and crannies. We are a commercial hub. As such, our position must be loud and clear,” Ganduje said.
The governor also reportedly called for an extension of the deadline for returning old naira notes.
“There are no banks in most of our rural communities. How these people get new naira notes is of great concern. Just look at what is happening in our urban areas; people go and spend hours upon hours in banks without any assurances of getting the new notes,” Ganduje lamented.
I’m alive by God’s grace, I saw many colleagues during civil war fall before me – Buhari
President Muhammadu Buhari has recounted a part of experience during the civil war in which he saw many people including his colleagues die right before him.
He also revealed how he ran away from home to join the Nigerian army to escape family pressure of getting married.
The President revealed this during a visit to the Emir of Daura, Faruk Faruk, after inaugurating two roads in Katsina State.
A presidential aide, Femi Adesina, highlighted Buhari’s narrative of his battle during the Nigerian Civil War and some personal challenges faced as told by the President duy the visit.
The statement read, “President Buhari said that he secured his first job early after school to manage a co-operative in Daura, but had to escape and join the army when there was pressure that he should get married.
“I told Governor Aminu Masari the story of how I left Daura to join the army. That was how God planned it. We make choices in life, but eventually destiny is before God.
“I was at the war front during the civil war, and saw how many died. Some fell right beside me. God kept me.
“Many bridges were blown just before we arrived at some places, and after we crossed. I arrived at some places to see bodies of my own colleagues that we were fighting together. I am alive today only by God’s grace.
“This opportunity to serve the nation comes from God. All over the world, Nigeria is known for its diversity, with different religions and cultures.
“We are also known because we have a huge population of millions of people. For the President of Nigeria, at this time, to come from Daura is the grace and mercy of God.”
Buhari also told the emirate that he would return and settle in Daura after handing over on May 29, 2023.
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