Massachusetts-based biotech company Moderna said Wednesday that in a small trial, its experimental coronavirus vaccine produced a similar number of antibodies for people aged 56 years and older as younger adults in a preliminary study, a promising sign for the high-risk age group amid concern that vaccines wouldn’t offer as much protection for older adults.
Older adults are at higher risk of hospitalization and death from Covid-19 than younger people and, because the immune system usually weakens with age, it can be harder for a vaccine to be effective, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Moderna, which reported in July that its vaccine induced immune response and was generally safe and well tolerated in adults aged 18 to 55, said during a presentation to medical experts and advisors that it had expanded its study to a small group of older adults.
Moderna tested its vaccine on 10 adults between the ages of 56 and 70 and 10 adults aged 71 and older and found that the older volunteers developed antibodies in a similar range as the younger volunteers; Moderna said the vaccine was well-tolerated with no serious side effects reported.
Moderna presented the data, which has yet to be peer reviewed, Wednesday to a committee of outside experts to advise the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on vaccine practices.
Earlier this month, President Trump said the U.S. government will purchase 100 million doses of Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine candidate for $1.5 billion as part of Operation Warp Speed which hopes to find at least one safe, effective vaccine by the end of the year.
The goal of the federal government’s Operation Warp Speed initiative is to spur the production of promising vaccine candidates and to buy initial batches so they can be distributed as soon as a candidate is approved.
The White House has made similar deals over the last few months with other companies developing vaccines, including Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Novavax, AstraZeneca and GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi. The U.S. had already given $955 million to help Moderna research develop its vaccine through the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.
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Although a vaccine might be proven safe and effective by early next year, Dr. Anthony Fauci said last month he doesn’t anticipate widespread availability with hundreds of millions of doses until “several months” into 2021.
$2.1 billion. That’s Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel’s net worth, according to Forbes estimates. He became a billionaire in April as Moderna stock jumped after announcing it expected to begin Phase 2 human trials for its Covid-19 vaccine.