Moderna COVID-19 Vaccine Shows Promising Results in Early Trial Among Older Adults

In an analysis, participants ages 56 and older produced neutralizing antibodies higher than those seen among patients who have recovered from COVID-19.

An experimental coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccine from Moderna appears to be effective in older adults who may be at higher risk for severe complications, according to results from a small trial.1

Moderna is among the leaders in the race for a COVID-19 vaccine, following a deal with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the Department of Defense (DoD) to manufacture and deliver 100 million doses. The vaccine is being manufactured simultaneously with clinical trials in an effort to shorten the typical development timeline.2

According to reporting by CNBC, an early stage clinical trial tested the vaccine on 10 adults between 56 and 70 years of age, and 10 adults aged 71 years and older. Each study participant was given 2 100-microgram doses of the vaccine 28 days apart.1

The participants produced neutralizing antibodies necessary to build COVID-19 immunity as well as T-cells, according to CNBC. The report noted that the antibodies produced were higher than those seen among patients who have recovered from COVID-19. These findings are consistent with preliminary results released in May, which found that the vaccine produced antibodies in 45 healthy adults.1

“What I know so far is 2 very important things,” said Moderna Chief Medical Officer Tal Zaks, MD, PhD, in an interview on the Freakonomics podcast. “The first is, I know that the vaccine can generate neutralizing antibodies that are on average higher than what you see even with infection. And the second thing I know is that the safety and tolerability profile, so far as we’ve seen from phase 1 and phase 2 trials, it’s pretty much what you’d expect.”3

Zaks added that the next challenge will be scaling up testing to ensure that the immune response does indeed prevent the virus.3

According to reporting by Reuters, the Moderna vaccine must be kept at minus 20 degrees Celsius for shipping and long-term storage up to 6 months, but can be kept at regular refrigerator temperatures for up to 10 days.4 The company said it is working to make the vaccine stable at higher temperatures.4

In addition to the analysis of older patients, Moderna has so far enrolled more than 13,000 participants in its late-stage study, including 18% who are Black, Latino, Native American, or Alaska Native. These groups have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic and are often underrepresented in clinical trials, according to Reuters.4

Moderna is charging between $32 and $37 per dose under cheaper “pandemic pricing,” according to reporting by CNBC. The company is apparently also in talks for larger volume agreements that will have lower prices.1

“I have to tell you, when I step back and I see that our price range and what we’ve disclosed is actually cheaper than a diagnostic test, I feel good about it,” Zaks said on the Freakonomics podcast.3

REFERENCES

  • Lovelace Jr, B. Moderna says its coronavirus vaccine shows promising results in small trial of elderly patients. CNBC; August 26, 2020. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/08/26/moderna-says-its-coronavirus-vaccine-shows-promising-results-in-small-trial-of-elderly-patients.html. Accessed August 27, 2020.
  • US Announces Deal With Moderna to Produce 100 Million Doses of Experimental COVID-19 Vaccine. Pharmacy Times; August 11, 2020. https://www.pharmacytimes.com/news/us-announces-deal-with-moderna-to-produce-100-million-doses-of-experimental-covid-19-vaccine. Accessed August 27, 2020.
  • Freakonomics Radio. Will a Covid-19 Vaccine Change the Future of Medical Research? Released August 26, 2020. https://freakonomics.com/podcast/vaccine/. Accessed August 27, 2020.
  • Steenhuysen J and Maddipatla M. Moderna COVID-19 vaccine appears to work as well in older adults in early study. Reuters; August 26, 2020. https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-cdc-moderna/modernas-covid-19-vaccine-shows-similar-immune-response-in-old-and-young-idUSKBN25M1Y0. Accessed August 27, 2020.