Stock markets hit record highs yesterday after American biotechnology company Moderna announced interim results of their third phase of COVID-19 vaccine trials, with early data showing 94.5% effectiveness.

• This comes just a week after Pfizer announced a 90% success rate from its late-stage COVID vaccine testing and Russian-led vaccine Sputnik V’s clinical trials suggested a 92% efficacy.

Why it matters: Following the back-to-back announcement of promising vaccines, stock markets surged in hopes of an imminent vaccine breakthrough. 

Dow Jones and S&P 500 witnessed all-time highs as they closed up by 1.7%,  and 1.6% respectively, while Nasdaq ended with a 0.8% increase.

• Hong Kong’s Hang Seng Index opened today at 26,515.09 points – the highest it’s been since March. Japan’s Nikkei also opened at 26,043.45, continuing a two-week rise that has seen the index surpass pre-pandemic performance.

• Moderna’s stocks witnessed a 12.3% spike when the market opened on Monday, following its announcement.

The vaccine: Among the 30,000-people trial, 15,000 participants were administered two doses of the vaccine four weeks apart, while the remainder were given two shots of placebo. Of those who received the vaccine, only five of them contracted COVID-19. None of them reported severe illness or complications.

• Like its American counterpart, Moderna’s vaccine also hinges on the mRNA genetic recipe, a first of its kind for vaccines. 

• Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, alleviated concerns on the scepticism regarding mRNA as he spoke to the Washington Post: “What we saw in the trials is there was no real safety concern, and the efficacy is quite impressive. We saw nearly identical results [with Pfizer and Moderna] and it almost really validates the mRNA platform.” 

• Moderna will be applying to US regulators and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to seek approval after further safety tests are conducted in the coming weeks.

• Alex Azar, the US Secretary of Health and Human Services, told CNBC that the FDA will “move as fast as possible” to authorise Moderna and Pfizer’s vaccines for emergency use.

Looking ahead: Moderna expects to have up to 20 million doses made available in the US alone by the end of 2020, with plans to seek approval from other countries. In comparison, Pfizer has projected it will have 50 million doses ready by the end of the year.

The UK has placed an advanced order of five million doses of the vaccine to be made available to the country after Moderna clears regulatory checks. 

• Clinical trials of a COVID-19 vaccine produced by Belgium pharmaceutical company Janssen are also underway in the UK. The firm predicts a runway of six to nine months before conclusive results can be determined.


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