On Monday US biotechnology company Moderna announced that the vaccine it has been developing has shown 94.5 percent effectiveness during the phase III clinical trials, the final ones before commercialisation.
This comes just days after pharma giant Pfizer and their German partner BioNTech revealed that advanced trials had also shown their vaccine to be 90 percent effective against Covid-19.
Both vaccines still require more safety data and regulatory reviews, but the United States believes it could have the two inoculations licensed for emergency use by December.
Does this mean that it will also be available in Spain by Christmas?
Not quite. According to Moderna sources, their vaccines will be supplied through two distribution channels: one for USA and the other for Europe, in which Spain would be included.
The US is expected to receive its Moderna vaccine supply by the end of the year whereas the situation isn’t as clear when it comes to distribution in Europe.
Firstly, it will come down to individual negotiations with each country and secondly it will be subject to approval by the European Medicines Agency, which is still pending.
However, the general consensus is that it will be accessible in Europe in early 2021.
The European Commission has been negotiating the purchase of an extra 160 million doses from Moderna since July, talks which are reported to be at an ‘advanced’ stage.
As for its competitor Pfizer, the European Commission has already agreed to the purchase of 300 million vaccines from the US pharmaceutical company, 30 million of which would be for Spain.
This will be enough to vaccinate 15 million people in the country, since it is a double dose administered one month apart, even though Spain’s population currently stands at 47 million.
That’s not to say that more vaccines won’t be purchased soon if the final clinical trials continue to produce positive results.
As announced by Spanish Health Minister Salvador Illa on November 11th, the Covid-19 vaccination campaign could begin in January in Spain, and by May there could be a large part of the Spanish population vaccinated against Covid-19.
Which vaccine is likely to be distributed first?
Logistically speaking, the Moderna vaccine appears to have the upper hand over the Pfizer inoculation as it doesn’t require extreme refrigeration at – 80C, with storage at -2 to -8C in more conventional freezers possible for up to six months.
Another factor which could mean the Moderna vaccine is more easily available in Spain is that the final stage of production for Europe will be carried out in Spain.
More specifically, at the Rovi laboratories in Pozuelo de Alarcón on the outskirts of Madrid, where the “filling” process -which involves a last visual inspection and labelling of the vaccine – will take place.
What could work against Moderna is its price as, pending negotiation with regulatory bodies, The Guardian has stated that in principle the Moderna vaccine would cost between €42 and €50 for the two doses, while that of Pfizer would cost €33.
But until either (or both or neither) are approved for commercialisation, knowing if these factors will play a part in how soon a vaccine against Covid-19 is available to the world and Spain is mainly speculation.
It’s worth noting that neither company has seen its trials validated by any external reviewer, nor have the results been published in scientific journals yet, which by general scientific standards makes them as effective as the hundreds of other vaccines being trialled around the planet currently.
However, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t reason to be hopeful that by May of next year as suggested by Spain’s Minister of Health Salvador Illa, much of Spain’s population will have been vaccinated against the novel coronavirus.
“Experts tell us that the ideal is for more than 40 percent of the population to be vaccinated,” Illa remarked.
“We will have to have a firm attitude towards deniers and antiscientific attitudes.”