The vaccine against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus developed by Moderna is validated by the European Medicines Agency, a few weeks after approval by the FDA in the United States. Henceforth, two vaccines are therefore validated in Europe: Pfizer and Moderna, both based on messenger RNA.
While AstraZeneca’s vaccine was recently validated in the United Kingdom to fight the pandemic, the European Medicines Agency has just approved Moderna’s vaccine on January 6, 2021. As for that of Pfizer- BioNTech, the only one previously available in the European Union, it relies on messenger RNA. The formula is therefore similar, but the two vaccines differ in several aspects.
The first difference is simply based on its availability: the European Union has ordered 160 million doses (24 million for France), against 300 million for that of Pfizer (45 million for France). This is probably explained by its cost, which is higher – 18 dollars against 14 dollars for Pfizer.
While Pfizer’s vaccine is partly of German origin, Moderna is a US-based company – part of the doses however will be made in France by Recipharm in Indre-et-Loire in order to streamline deliveries. Led for several years by the French Stéphane Bancel, Moderna is a pioneer in biotechnology. It was founded in 2010 and all of its research is entirely dedicated to pharmaceutical formulas based on messenger RNA.
As with Pfizer, Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine needs to be stored in super freezers. But the latter requires lower temperatures than that of Pfizer (–60 to 80 degrees Celsius): the Moderna vaccine is frozen at –20 degrees (up to 6 months) then a normal fridge is sufficient for thawed storage, at 5 degrees (up to 1 month). This small difference in temperatures can hardly be explained, since it relies on trade secrets, namely the exact formula in the laboratory to stabilize the very fragile messenger RNA.
Efficiency is similar
Beyond manufacturing and then distribution, Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are getting closer not only in their messenger RNA-based technique, but also in their results. They have the highest efficiency on the market against the coronavirus, with 94.1% efficiency respectively for Moderna’s and 95% for Pfizer’s. Both cases have been demonstrated to be safe in phase 3 trials, which means that no significant unanticipated side effects were noted during studies involving samples of several tens of thousands of people.
In the United States, Moderna’s vaccine has been approved since December 18, 2020. It has since been used alongside that of Pfizer.
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