2nd COVID-19 vaccine gets public review ahead of US decision

Thursday, December 17, 2020

WASHINGTON (AP) — A second COVID-19 vaccine moved closer to joining the U.S. fight against the pandemic Thursday as government advisers convened for a public review of its safety and effectiveness.

It’s the next-to-last step for the vaccine developed by drugmaker Moderna and the National Institutes of Health. The panel of physicians and medical researchers is expected to endorse it, followed by the Food and Drug Administration’s OK within hours or days.

The action would provide a boost to the largest vaccination effort in U.S. history that kicked off this week. More shipments of the first green-lighted vaccine, developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, were going out Thursday, earmarked for health care workers and nursing home residents around the country.

A second vaccine is urgently needed as coronavirus infections, hospitalizations and deaths continue to rise in the U.S. ahead of holiday travel and gatherings that are expected to further fuel the pandemic.

The FDA’s Dr. Doran Fink opened the daylong meeting reiterating that the agency’s review would be “transparent, scientifically sound and data-driven.”

Moderna’s vaccine is largely following the same path as Pfizer-BioNTech’s, which relies on the same groundbreaking technology. Most traditional vaccines use dead or weakened virus, but both of the new vaccines use snippets of COVID-19’s genetic code to train the immune system to detect and fight the virus. Both require two doses, weeks apart.

The rapid development of two highly effective vaccines using the novel technique is one of the scientific triumphs in the race against coronavirus.

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