Global drugmakers race for approval of vaccines
Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech are in a tight race to launch their COVID-19 vaccines in Europe after both applied for emergency EU approval on Tuesday, although there was uncertainty over whether a rollout could begin this year.
The applications to the European Medicines Agency came a day after Moderna sought emergency use for its shot in the United States and more than a week after Pfizer and BioNTech did the same.
US drugmaker Pfizer and its German development partner BioNTech said their vaccine could be launched in the European Union as early as this month.
The EMA clouded the timeline, however, when it said it would complete its review for that vaccine by December 29 at the latest, and for Moderna’s shot by January 12. It added its schedule may be subject to change as its evaluation proceeds.
The European Commission, the EU executive body, said it would likely give its final authorization for a vaccine’s rollout days after a recommendation by the EMA.
An effective immunization is seen as the main weapon against the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 1.4 million people and ravaged economies across the globe. Close to 50 potential vaccines are being tested on volunteers worldwide.
Both US bio-tech firm Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech have reported preliminary findings of more than 90 percent effectiveness in trials of their vaccines, which are both based on new messenger RNA technology.
Their work validates that of several bio-tech experts, who for years have been laboring to prove a once-unorthodox idea: The human body can act as its own vaccine factory.
Both inoculations work by injecting people with customized genetic code that instructs human cells to make key virus proteins to induce an immune response.
Any clearance in the EU and US for the vaccines will be “conditional” or for “emergency use,” meaning developers are obliged to continue trials and provide more trial results as they emerge.