Vaccine volunteer reacts as early data shows Moderna vaccine is 94.5% effective

Biotech company Moderna announced its COVID-19 vaccine is nearly 95% effective, with some major advantages over other vaccines.

But that success was only possible because some brave volunteers risked their own health to test it, including one Seattle-area man.

“The fact that this is 94.5, almost 95% effective, is just outstanding,” Neal Browning said Monday.

Browning is the second volunteer to receive an injection in Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine trial.

The company eported the latest results reveal out of 30,000 participants, the vaccine was 94.5% effective with no reports of serious side effects. All 11 cases of severe COVID-19 illness were in the placebo group.

The vaccine uses genetic information called messenger RNA to help the body trigger an immune response.

“There’s no COVID-19 — either weakened or killed — in this,” Browning said. “So there’s no way for you to actually catch COVID-19 from it.”

Last week, Pfizer announced its vaccine candidate, also based on mRNA technology, is more than 90% effective.

But Moderna’s vaccine has a big advantage. It can be transported in standar freezers and fridges instead of the ultra-cold temperatures Pfizer’s vaccine candidate requires. Moderna’s can be stored in a fridge for up to 30 days and at room temperature for up to 12 hours.

“We hope that means the vaccine’s going to be made available in a bunch of places like local doctor’s offices,” Moderna President Dr. Stephen Hoge said.

University of Washington Bothell professor Dan Bustillos pointed out there are still a lot of questions about the vaccines, including how long the protection lasts and the impact on different groups.

“We still need to see more people in these trials with the disease to get a better idea of how effective it is at preventing it, how effective it is at decreasing the infectiousness of asymptomatic people, for example,” Bustillos said.

KIRO 7 asked Bustillos about concerns people have about a vaccine being developed so quickly.

“Every vaccine has potential for risks and harms, and this will be no different,” he said. “The question is whether those are manageable risks, whether they’re small enough to be able to warrant using this on the majority of the people on the planet. And I think that the answer to that — I hope that the answer to that — will be yes.”

Browning points out there’s more data to come.

He had a blood draw last month, and his final one is in April. They are checks that gauge any long-term effects and see how long the antibodies last.

“I believe in this mainly because of the science and the data and the results that this has shown,” he said. “We need to stop looking at shadows and seeing conspiracies everywhere. It’s something we all need to jump behind to help end this and make the world a better place.”

Moderna expects to request emergency use authorization from the Food and Drug Administration in a few weeks and have 20 million doses ready for use by the end of the year.

But the Washington State Medical Association is cautioning people to remember that a vaccine will take a while to be vetted and distributed. And right now, people need to focus on wearing masks, social distancing and limiting gatherings.