Basseterre, St. Kitts, December 24, 2020 (SKNIS): A new vaccine from Moderna has come on stream to protect individuals from contracting COVID-19, says Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Hazel Laws, during the December 23rd National Emergency Operations Centre (NEOC) COVID-19 Press Briefing.

This Moderna vaccine is highly protective against COVID-19 and has been approved for emergency use by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), reported Dr. Laws. However, she said emergency authorization is not the same as a full approval. It allows an experimental vaccine to be used if there is evidence that its potential benefits outweigh its risks, while more data is collected to apply for full approval.

“In other words, all those individuals who would have received either the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine in the United Kingdom or the U.S and along with the Moderna vaccine, they have to log on to their phones and send information to the CDC on a daily basis,” she said.

“They have to provide information regarding their health status having received the vaccine,” she added. “So, live data is being collected on these two vaccine candidates as time elapses.”

It was noted that the Moderna vaccine has an efficacy rate of 94.1 percent in a trial of 30,000 people.

Dr. Laws said the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine is similar to the Moderna vaccine in terms of use. However, there are some notable differences based on data from the trials. She stated that the Moderna vaccine produced more evidence that its vaccine can prevent severe disease.

The Chief Medical Officer assured that once persons receive the vaccine it prevents them from getting moderate to severe COVID-19 disease and prevents mortality.

A second difference is that the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine started to protect against the coronavirus within about 10 days of the first dose. However, based on data from the Moderna trial, this may not be the case.

Dr. Laws said that it is still unknown how long immunity will last once a person receives a vaccine. Another puzzle is whether the vaccine can prevent people from spreading the disease. New data from Moderna suggest that its vaccine may reduce transmission.

“Over the next three to five months, as they continue to collect live data, from individuals who would have received these vaccines, the scientists are hopeful that the data gap will be filled,” she said.

Common side effects of the vaccine include fever, fatigue, and headache. Both trials show that few persons developed temporary facial paralysis called Bell’s palsy.
“The scientists are not sure if the vaccines would have caused this or it may have been a coincidence because it’s not unusual for someone to develop Bell’s palsy having experienced viral infection,” she said. “The FDA is tracking the Bell’s palsy as the vaccines are rolled out.”

It is expected that the COVID-19 vaccine will be made available to the Caribbean Member States by the second quarter of 2021.