The UK could end up paying more than double the US for Moderna's groundbreaking coronavirus vaccine after officials scrambled yesterday to iron out a last-minute deal.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock confirmed last night that the UK would receive 5 million doses of the shock from March 2021 if approved by regulators.
And the deal is expected to cost the UK between £ 24 ($ 32) and £ 28 ($ 37) per dose – while the US, which pre-ordered the burst months ago, will only pay and is expected to pay $ 15 (£ 11.32) will have access next month when health chiefs approve the push.
The UK deal could cost anywhere from £ 120 million to £ 165 million in total if there are enough vaccine doses to cover 2.5 million people with two bumps each.
The company announced yesterday only the second company to announce initial results of its most recent clinical study on the sting, suggesting it could be up to 94.5 percent effective.
Pharmaceutical companies Pfizer and BioNTech were the first to announce their early test results last week on a near-identical vaccine that was found to be 90 percent effective in a study. The UK is expected to pay £ 14.71 per dose for Pfizer's shock.
MPs asked yesterday if Britain was backing the wrong horse when pre-ordering Pfizer's vaccine, not Modernas. Both work in the same way and have been shown to be similarly effective, but Pfizers is more difficult to store while Moderna has never successfully brought a product to market before.
But scientists hit back, saying that both vaccines are based on "risky", untested technology and that having too much money tied up on the projects would have been a worse choice.
Moderna yesterday announced preliminary results of its clinical study with more than 25,000 volunteers suggesting that its vaccine could be up to 94.5 percent effective against coronavirus
Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel (left) said the UK did not order a vaccine from the company before the trial results were announced yesterday. However, an agreement was reached before Health Secretary Matt Hancock (right) announced a dose of five million yesterday afternoon at 5:00 p.m.
Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel confirmed today that the UK has not signed a contract with the company for any of its vaccines until the trial results were released yesterday.
When news broke at noon that the vaccine appeared 94.5 percent effective in its first large study, officials spent the day trying to get their hands on it.
The government's science bureau issued an immediate statement saying it was in "advanced talks" with the company.
A deal had been negotiated by 5 p.m., and Health Secretary Matt Hancock announced on a television briefing that the UK had received five million doses.
Discussions have been going on since May, Bancel told Sky News today, but nothing has been finalized.
The European Union had also failed to conclude its contract to supply 160 million cans.
Authorities placing larger orders get cheaper deals, Moderna confirmed today, while countries ordering fewer vaccines pay more.
A spokesman said: "We have been negotiating potential supply agreements prior to approval, mostly with governments, with smaller volume agreements for $ 32-37 / dose.
& # 39; Agreements for larger quantities are being discussed, with lower prices for higher quantities …
"Our pricing strategy is the same for all industrialized nations."
The U.S. government, which contributed $ 955 million (£ 721 million) to development of the vaccine, will get its first access to 100 million doses for $ 1.525 billion (£ 1.15 billion).
MPs noted yesterday that the government has not attached their car to Moderna's project, which may prove more successful than Pfizer's.
Liberal Democrat MP Munira Wilson said: “It's a shame we weren't part of the EU vaccine procurement program or that we would have early access to the Moderna vaccine as well as the Pfizer vaccine.
“I hope the UK government can get a good deal of business at this late stage. I think Moderna's negotiating position is much stronger now! & # 39;
Labor MP Bill Esterton criticized the government's handling of the coronavirus crisis, saying it was riddled with "mistake after mistake".
"This time it is the failure to buy the Moderna vaccine than many other countries have," he tweeted. “Remember, Hancock told us we could get a vaccine faster if we didn't join the EU vaccine purchase program. How does it work? & # 39;
But scientists today backed the UK Vaccine Taskforce, saying the group was right not to take the risk.
The Pfizer / BioNTech vaccine and the Moderna vaccine work the same way.
They use a fat molecule to move genetic material from the coronavirus into the body, and this causes human cells to produce the "spike" proteins that are on the outside of the coronavirus.
When the immune system sees these spikes, it goes into action and attacks them. It learns how to best prevent the spikes from sticking to the body.
That said, if someone encounters the real coronavirus, the immune cells already know how to destroy it by recognizing its tips and can eradicate it before it causes infection.
The landmark push is called the mRNA vaccine and has never been used before. Experts argue that betting too much on success would have been riskier than not betting enough.
Professor Andrew Preston, a biologist at the University of Bath, said it would have been a "high risk" for the UK to support more than one mRNA vaccine.
"The mRNA vaccines are just one type of vaccine, along with DNA-based, viral and traditionally inactivated viral vaccines," he told MailOnline.
& # 39; The British government has been prudent. You have invested in a number of types of vaccines. The mRNA vaccine is a new platform and the Covid-19 vaccines will be the first licensed use of an mRNA vaccine.
As such, it could have been considered the riskiest of all vaccines. Investing in two mRNA vaccines at the expense of a more traditional vaccine, for example, would therefore have been seen as a high risk. & # 39;
Moderna's vaccine works just like the one developed by Pfizer and BioNTech, using genetic material called RNA from the coronavirus to induce the body to make the "spike" proteins that the virus uses to attach the virus to cells in the body binds
Professor Peter Openshaw, an expert in experimental medicine at Imperial College London, said the UK was "wise" in choosing only one of the two mRNA vaccines.
"I think the government was prudent in making agreements with a number of vaccines using different technologies," he told MailOnline.
DOLLY PARTON CREDITS WITH THE HELP OF MODERNA VACCINE AFTER DONATION OF 1 MILLION USD
A $ 1 million donation from Dolly Parton appears to have helped fund the production of a promising new coronavirus vaccine.
In April, the country singer announced that she had donated the sum to Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, for coronavirus research.
This week, U.S. company Moderna announced that its coronavirus vaccine against Covid-19 could be 94.5 percent effective, and Parton's name is under review in the preliminary report.
The report, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, said the work was supported by the Dolly Parton COVID-19 Research Fund (Vanderbilt University Medical Center), among others.
The development comes after Parton tweeted in April: & # 39; My longtime friend Dr. Naji Abumrad, who has worked at Vanderbilt for many years, shared that he has made some exciting strides in researching the coronavirus for a cure.
"I'm donating $ 1 million to Vanderbilt for this research and to encourage people who can afford to donate."
While she hasn't recognized her dedication since the new report on the Moderna vaccine, Parton's fans have welcomed the obvious impact of her donation.
"At the time of this procurement, we just didn't know what kind of protection a vaccine study was likely to provide.
“Now more than 90 percent of the trials are coming – that's far more than we had hoped for. We were hoping that something over 60 percent would be great, 50 percent would be acceptable. But 90 percent are amazingly good.
"It shows the UK's commitment to source vaccines for use in the UK and then sell them to other countries."
One of the obvious advantages of Moderna's vaccine over that of Pfizer and BioNTech is that it doesn't need to be frozen as intensely.
Pfizer currently always has to be stored at -70 ° C, which requires expensive special equipment and potentially a lot of dry ice.
Moderna's, meanwhile, remains stable when transported at -20 ° C (-4 ° F), which is within the range of a normal freezer, and can then be refrigerated for 30 days.
Professor Ian Jones, a virologist at the University of Reading, said the government's strategy has focused on "securing a number of different doses from a number of different countries".
"I wouldn't say there is a case of either or with these vaccines," he said.
He added that further testing would likely show that the Pfizer vaccine can be stored at warmer temperatures for long periods of time, making it easier to store and transport.
"Technically, purified RNA is pretty stable," he said.
“They're wrong on the security side of adopting -70 ° C (-94 ° F), but that's probably because that's the data they have now, so they can't go beyond that until they add new one Have data that shows they can remain stable in warmer temperatures. & # 39;
The UK Vaccines Taskforce selected jabs based on their expected ability to trigger an immune response in those 65 and over, their expected ability to create long-term resilience, their likelihood of regulatory approval, and those who will see their results by 2020 or higher will report by June 2021.
It does not appear that supply chain issues, such as the need for large refrigerators to store the vaccines, have been carefully considered.
Taskforce chair Kate Bingham, in an article published in The Lancet late last month, failed to elaborate on the considerations of how to get a vaccine to humans.
She added a sentence about shipping vaccines that need to be kept cool: “No one has ever mass-vaccinated adults anywhere in the world, and the two-dose regimen and cold chain restrictions for some vaccines add to the complexity in this staging operation. & # 39;
From Genetic Code to Effective Vaccine: Timeline of Moderna Vaccine Development
13th January: Moderna is developing its vaccine called mRNA-1273 after the Chinese authorities disclosed the genetic code of a novel coronavirus two days earlier.
February 24th: Preparations are being made for the Phase 1 clinical trials. The cans will be shipped to the US-based National Institute for Health prior to launch.
March 16: The first participant in phase one receives a dose. The study volunteers are healthy adults between the ages of 18 and 55.
May 29th: After successful completion of the phase 1 studies, phase 2 studies will be started with a larger human sample. 300 younger adults and 50 older adults are involved.
July 27th: As success increases, Phase 3 trials will begin to see if the vaccine is safe in the community and will stop the virus from spreading
August 11th: Moderna announces a supply agreement with the US government for 100 million cans.
August 24th: Moderna announces a supply agreement with the EU for 80 million cans.
November 16: The company says early studies showed the vaccine was 94.5 percent effective. Only five out of eighty people who contracted the virus had received the vaccine.
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