A second coronavirus vaccine will be approved by the United States government after it was endorsed by a panel of health experts.
The head of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has announced that his agency would move quickly to authorise the new Moderna vaccine, allowing the company to begin shipping millions of doses.
It comes days after the US began its largest ever immunisation campaign with the rollout of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
The US has recorded more Covid-19 cases and deaths than any other country as the death toll has now passed 300,000.
The Covid-19 advisory panel on Thursday, December 17, voted 20-0 with one abstention that the benefits of the Moderna vaccine outweigh the risks for those aged 18 and over. The same committee last week backed the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, leading to its authorisation for emergency use the following day.
Following the panel’s endorsement, FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn said his agency had informed Moderna that it would work “rapidly” towards issuing emergency use authorisation.
The agency says the Moderna vaccine is safe and 94% effective.
The US has agreed to purchase 200 million doses and six million could be ready to ship as soon as the vaccine gets FDA approval.
“To go from having a sequence of a virus in January to having two vaccines available in December is a remarkable achievement,” said Dr James Hildreth, a member of the expert panel and CEO of Meharry Medical College in Tennessee.
The Moderna vaccine requires temperatures of around -20C for shipping – similar to a normal freezer unlike the Pfizer vaccine which requires temperatures closer to -75C, making transport logistics much more difficult.
Like the Pfizer jab, the Moderna vaccine also requires a second booster shot which comes 28 days after the first.