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FDA advisory panel recommends use of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine

FDA panel endorses Moderna's COVID vaccine
FDA panel endorses Moderna's COVID vaccine 04:15

A second coronavirus vaccine is one step closer to the arms of Americans. An advisory panel voted Thursday to recommend the Food and Drug Administration authorize Moderna's vaccine for emergency use, as they did last week for Pfizer's vaccine.

Members of the Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee voted 20-0 with one abstention in favor of the vaccine.

The FDA is expected to quickly authorize emergency use of the vaccine in the fight against COVID-19, which means it could start being administered as early as next week.

The panel's vote indicates members believe that given the totality of the scientific evidence, the benefits outweigh the risks for people 18 and older.

"To go from having a sequence of a virus in January to having two vaccines available in December is a remarkable achievement," said Dr. James Hildreth, president and CEO of Meharry Medical College in Nashville, Tennessee, a member of the panel. 

The committee, which provides advice to the agency, last week offered a thumbs-up for the vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech. The FDA authorized it the next day. Health care workers and other priority recipients started receiving that vaccine Monday in what will be the largest vaccination program in the country's history.  

"The evidence that has been studied in great detail on this vaccine highly outweighs any of the issues we've seen and it really supports us being able to put the pandemic in our background, really move forward and finally provides a safe and effective way to get to herd immunity," said panel member Dr. Hayley Gans, a pediatrician at Stanford University Medical Center and professor of pediatrics.

The Moderna vaccine is reported to have an efficacy of over 94%, similar to Pfizer's. But unlike the Pfizer vaccine, which must be shipped and stored at ultra-cold temperatures, Moderna's can be kept at standard freezer temperatures. Both vaccines require two doses; the second dose of the Pfizer vaccine must be given 21 days after the first, while Moderna's is given 28 days later.

Doctor answers questions on COVID vaccines 02:17

According to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, the U.S. has seen more than 17.1 million people with confirmed cases of COVID-19, and over 310,000 deaths from the virus since the pandemic started earlier this year. Wednesday saw a record 3,600 deaths and more than 247,000 new cases amid a nationwide spike in the weeks following the Thanksgiving holiday. That's a nearly 10% increase in cases in the last week, with states such as Maine seeing close to a 20% increase and New Hampshire at 21.2%.

So far, two health care workers in Alaska reported allergic reactions to the Pfizer vaccine.

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