Pfizer (NYSE: PFE) and modern (NASDAQ: MRNA) It has been a close contender in the COVID-19 vaccine race ever since they announced the beginning of a Phase III vaccine trial on the same day in July. But Pfizer stepped forward to the finish line.The big pharmaceutical company received FDA (EUA) emergency use approval for the coronavirus vaccine in December.
Still, Moderna isn’t far off – the small biotech company’s vaccine received the EUA just seven days later.
Since then, the two companies have remained largely in competition. So far, 49 million Americans have received both doses of the Pfizer vaccine, developed under the code name BNT162b2 but now called Comirnaty – while 40 million have completed Moderna’s vaccine. But it’s still called mRNA-1273.Both companies are working on vaccination and conducting necessary clinical studies that will help them start vaccinating children and adolescents too, but Comirnaty has one big weakness. And that weakness, combined with the latest Moderna news, may help move the mRNA-1273 one step further.
Key differences between the two mRNA vaccines
Pfizer and Moderna developed the mRNA vaccine for COVID-19.They used RNA to stimulate the body to make the main protein found on the surface of the corona virus. The immune system then produces antibodies that memorize that protein, preparing the body to fight the coronavirus. But their vaccines are not the same. One major difference from the start is the storage temperature requirements. And that is Pfizer’s weakness.
For a long time, Comirnaty must be kept at very cold temperatures – between minus 112 degrees Fahrenheit and minus 76 degrees Fahrenheit. The vaccine may be stored at standard refrigerator temperature for five days.
As Pfizer collects more data, it can loosen up some guidelines for short-term storage.For example, the company earlier this year said the vaccine could be stored at relatively high temperatures (minus 13 degrees Fahrenheit to 5 degrees Fahrenheit). For two weeks This is the temperature that standard freezers can maintain. The Food and Drug Administration has approved those new storage guidelines.
So pharmacies and healthcare facilities can easily store Pfizer vaccines for 19 days. I’m counting the refrigerated temperature ranges and the pharmacy freezer temperature ranges.
Easier from the start
Moderna’s mRNA-1273 offers an easier storage profile right from the start. The guidelines now say it can be stored at standard refrigerator temperatures (35.6 degrees Fahrenheit to 46.4 degrees Fahrenheit) for up to a month. They can be stored for up to seven months in the standard freezer. But this week, Moderna said further research has shown that mRNA-1273 can be safely maintained at refrigerator temperatures for up to three months.The FDA still has to approve those new guidelines.
Moderna is also studying a new formulation of the coronavirus vaccine, which further improves the storage model.
The possibility that Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine can be stored for up to three months in a standard refrigerator could make the legs bigger on the market. Pfizer guarantees the safe transport of the vaccine with a special heated container. But in smaller healthcare settings, the problem is on-site storage. Many doctor’s offices or pharmacies may want to purchase a vaccine that can be stored in the refrigerator for a long time. There may be limited freezer space – or no freezer space at all.
And in some countries, temperature requirements can be the decisive factor when it comes to the choice of governments, vaccines and healthcare providers. For example, Nigeria said earlier this year it would prefer a vaccine that requires less cooling.
Evolving vaccination situation
When the COVID-19 vaccine was first introduced, countries aimed to vaccinate as many people as possible as quickly as possible. So they ordered what was available. But as many vaccine manufacturers continue to increase production and refine their offerings, countries will have more options and a little more time to consider them. This was a time when Moderna was able to lead.
Will this mean Moderna’s dominance of the core market and Pfizer’s massive loss of revenue? No, mRNA-1273 can be moved to its peak because of the simpler storage requirements. But if so, Pfizer’s Comirnaty will remain close.Not a single company can vaccinate the 7.8 billion people in the world at the speed needed, Moderna and Pfizer both aim to produce a vaccine against them. Coronavirus 3 billion doses next year, and each person needs two doses. Therefore, even if one country prefers Moderna’s vaccine, it is likely that it will need to order a vaccine from another vaccine maker to cover the entire population.
Moderna vaccine’s easy-to-handle temperature requirements would not increase Pfizer’s chances of multi-billion dollar Comirnaty sales. But this latest news is likely to lead to an increase in orders for mRNA-1273 and potentially significantly increase sales of Moderna’s products in the long run.
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