Australia will soon have another tool in its arsenal in the fight against COVID-19. Australia’s drug and medicines regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration or TGA has approved the vaccine for use in adults in Australia.
Back in May, Australia ordered 25 million doses of the Moderna vaccine. This is set to be our third vaccine, along with the currently available AstraZeneca and Pfizer. Approvals are yet to be granted for the fourth vaccine, Novavax, but 51 million doses of that vaccine have also been ordered.
Moderna is expected to hit our shores in the next few weeks. As the newest vaccine on the scene, we’re here to break down everything we know about Moderna and answer all of the questions you might have.
What is the Moderna Vaccine?
Like Pfizer, Moderna is also an mRNA vaccine. According to the US’s Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), mRNA vaccines protect against infectious diseases by teaching human cells how to make a protein (or a piece of protein) that triggers an immune response inside our bodies.
It’s like a little guidebook for your immune system, showing it what a SARS-COV-2 virus looks like and how to combat it if and when the real virus comes along.
While the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines are quite similar, Moderna contains 100 micrograms of vaccine while Pfizer contains 30.
What Is Moderna’s Efficacy Rate?
Moderna has been shown to have a 93% efficacy rate against symptomatic COVID-19 after six months. It is also 98% effective against developing severe symptoms from COVID and has a 100% efficacy rate against mortality from the virus.
The vaccine received emergency authorisation in the US and has been one of the main vaccines used in the States since then. Over 140 million doses of Moderna have been given in America so far.
How Does the Moderna Vaccine Work?
Like the AstraZeneca and Pfizer vaccines, Moderna is a two-dose vaccine. The vaccine is designed to be given four weeks apart, however, it’s uncertain as of yet exactly if this is the rollout strategy that Australia will follow.
The Moderna vaccine has an advantage over Pfizer in that it doesn’t need to be stored at such cold temperatures. Pfizer requires storage at -75 degrees Celsius but Moderna only needs to be kept at -20 which should be much easier to manage for pharmacists and GP clinics.
Like AstraZeneca and Pfizer, Moderna is also likely to require booster jabs. 15 million of the 25 million doses Australia currently has on order are designated as booster jabs. Even if you haven’t had Moderna as your primary jab, you could get it as a booster jab as mixing vaccines has been shown to be not only safe but also highly effective.
In a statement in June, Moderna has also said that its vaccine is effective at preventing infection from the Delta strain of COVID-19.
Who Will Get the Moderna Vaccine?
The US CDC has recommended the vaccine for people 18 and older but the Australian guidelines have yet to be announced.
Back in May, the Prime Minister said that the vaccine would primarily be for those between the ages of 18 and 60. This is because of the confusion surrounding the AstraZeneca vaccine and the reluctance of the younger generations to get that vaccine as well as the lack of supply of the Pfizer vaccine.
Pfizer has since been authorised for use in those aged 12 and up and it’s thought that Moderna could be used in a similar age range too.
Moderna Side Effects
Health authorities in the US have not reported any major side effects from the Moderna vaccine.
The usual symptoms are present such as soreness in the arm where the vaccine was administered. It is also thought to cause minor symptoms of tiredness, muscle pain, fever, and chills in some people.
Who Makes the Moderna Vaccine?
Unlike the huge international conglomerates behind the other vaccines available in Australia, Moderna, the company, is a small biotech firm based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Moderna Vaccine Trials in Children
You may have heard that Moderna plans to trial its vaccine in children in Australia. The company is planning to run trials in 6000 children between the ages of six months and 12 years.
Most of these are in the US, but Moderna has also noted that it wants to trial the vaccine in two overseas countries with comparable healthcare systems and populations to the US.
It has named Australia and Canada as potential bases for these trials but nothing has been decided just yet.
Australian Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said he had limited details about Moderna’s plan, but said the company would have to apply to the TGA if it wished to conduct any trials and the TGA would make a decision over safety.
When Will the Moderna Vaccine Arrive in Australia?
According to the delivery schedule, one million Moderna vaccines are due to arrive in September with an additional three million arriving each month until the end of the year.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said yesterday that Australians could expect it to be rolled out around the country from the middle of September.
“We will have 10 million of the Moderna doses arriving before the end of this year,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said on Monday afternoon in Canberra.