The World Health Organization listed Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine for emergency use on Friday, the fifth such designation since the pandemic began and another step towards global access.
WHO announced its experts found the Moderna vaccine to be 94.1 percent effective and recommended it for all ages 18 and above. Both the Moderna and Pfizer-BioNTech two-dose vaccines use the brand-new messenger RNA, or mRNA technology. Neither were made with the coronavirus itself, so no one could catch COVID-19 from them.
The emergency use listing helps expedite regulatory approval processes and enables international organizations to get to more places where COVID-19 vaccines are most needed by expanding the number of COVAX Facility vaccines eligible to be distributed among low-income and developing countries.
COVAX, co-led by WHO, Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, is part of the Access to Covid-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, a global collaboration among international organizations to provide coronavirus tests, medicines and vaccines worldwide.
Moderna’s CEO Stéphane Bancel said the company has been “actively participating” in discussions with officials from COVAX and other multilateral organizations to more broadly distribute its highly effective vaccine. The emergency use listing, he added, “is an incredible step forward as we continue our quest to ensure that people on every continent have access to our mRNA vaccine so that we can defeat the devastating COVID-19 pandemic.”
Pfizer-BioNTech’s Comirnaty® was the first coronavirus vaccine to gain WHO’s emergency use listing since the pandemic began. WHO later listed two more two-shot vaccines from AstraZeneca and another shot from Johnson & Johnson.
WHO said Moderna’s vaccine is meant to be stored at temperatures between -25 and -15 degrees Celsius, but that it may not always need ultra-cold chain storage because the multidose vials can be stored while refrigerated between 2 and 8 degrees C. for up to 30 days before the first dose is withdrawn. That could facilitate broader use of the vaccine in less-wealthy regions of the world where ultra-cold chain equipment is unavailable.