On December 18, the US Food and Drug Administration authorized emergency use of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine. This means that there are now two authorized vaccines available in the United States (Pfizer’s was authorized last week).
The FDA acted only one day after the number of Covid cases in the US had passed 17 million. The US has only 4% of the world’s population but an astonishing 23% of its Covid cases and 19% of the related deaths.
Before Friday’s decision, the agency reviewed data from human trials that involved 30,000 volunteers. It found 94% protection and no safety concerns.
One of the big differences between the two vaccines is that Pfizer’s needs to be kept very cold. Extremely cold. It must be stored at temperatures colder than winter in the Antarctic, -70C. This complicates (and renders more expensive) the supply chain for mass distribution. The new Moderna vaccine also requires storage at low temperatures, but not Antarctic-low: more akin to normal-freezer low.
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Another difference concerns the FDA approvals themselves. The FDA approved the Pfizer vaccines’ use in people as young as 16 years old. But the lower age limit of the Moderna approval is only 18 years old. This gives Pfizer an edge that may somewhat balance its disadvantage on the storage issue.