Dr. Tal Zaks, chief medical officer at Moderna Therapeutics, who was educated at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, told "Globes" today that, thanks to the agreement signed with Moderna in advance, Israel will be among the first countries to receive doses of the company's vaccine against Covid-19, production of which has already started. "Israel was one of the first countries that believed in us. The advance that Israel paid helped to build the company's production lines. Together with other countries that reserved doses in advance, it will receive doses that have already started being produced in Switzerland by our partner Lonza." Moderna also has its own plant in the US, and it too has started to produce doses of the vaccine, but these are reserved for the US market.
Zaks said that Israel had reserved "no small quantity" of vaccinations. The company is due to meet the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) within the next few weeks. It will present to the FDA the safety data gathered over two months from all the volunteers in its clinical trial of the vaccine, and it can already present effectiveness data for 151 patients. If all goes according to plan, sales of the vaccine will be able to start in December.
"The results are very exciting, and match the optimism we had thanks to the good results in the Phase I trial in which we demonstrated that we succeed in producing a large number of neutralizing antibodies. After we saw Pfizer's results, we were altogether optimistic. I think that these results strengthen the optimism not just about RNA immunizations, but in general the correlation between neutralizing antibodies and a genuine good result in humans, that is to say, they strengthen the chances that the other vaccines that have successfully passed Phase I trials will succeed, and I wish all of them success."
Zaks added that in addition to the fact that only five patients who fell ill with Covid-19 in Moderna's trial were in the trial group, versus 90 patients in the control group, all the patients who were severely ill with the disease were in the control group. It is therefore possible that, in addition to preventing the disease, the vaccine also protects against severe illness for those who nevertheless contract it, despite being immunized. This, however, is still only a hypothesis on the basis of a small amount of data, and it will have to be examined again on the full sample.
Is it already possible to now for how long the vaccine will be effective?
""We think, in the light of the good level of effectiveness and the high levels of neutralizing antibodies in the blood, that the vaccine will be effective for at least a good few months. In pandemic conditions, that confirms the expectation that we will be able to eradicate the contagion. Will we need to receive a boost after a year or every few years? That is harder to know."
Moderna's vaccine can be transported at minus 20 degrees Celsius, but even outside of a freezer at this temperature it can last another 30 days in an ordinary refrigerator, so that it can fairly easily be transported over long distances.
"But we still need to be a little patient," Zaks concludes. "Just a for a little more time to protect ourselves with the existing methods."
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on November 16, 2020
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