The Dow Jones Industrial Average jumped 912 points yesterday on the news that there is progress in the development of a Covid-19 virus vaccine. Even the mainstream media couldn’t find bad news in that announcement.
America has been shut down for over two months due to the virus pandemic, and nothing short of an effective vaccine is going to approach returning life to normal again. This promising news gives us all hope that day may come sooner rather than later.
The biotech firm Moderna has taken the early lead in developing a vaccine for Covid-19. The Wall Street Journal editorial board reports that Moderna used rapid genetic sequencing and its nimble mRNA manufacturing platform to develop and deliver a vaccine to the National Institutes of Health for clinical trials in late February.
Phase One of a clinical trial examining whether the vaccine is safe and provokes an immune response began in mid-March. Forty-five healthy volunteers ages 18 to 55 received varying doses. Moderna reported this week that all participants who had been evaluated after receiving two doses developed antibody levels at or above levels of those seen in patients who have recovered from the virus.
This is strong evidence the vaccines could be effective and there were no serious side effects reported. These promising results prompted the surge in the stock market.
Moderna also reported that its vaccine “provided full protection against viral replication in the lungs” in mice infected with the corona virus. On May 7, the FDA cleared the company to begin Phase Two trials with 600 participants including individuals over age 55 to determine whether they also muster a robust immune response.
The FDA also granted Moderna fast-track designation on May 12 which will allow the company to begin Phase Three trials to assess the vaccine’s efficacy in thousands of people by July. If results are promising, it is anticipated that vaccines could be available for high-priority groups such as healthcare workers as early as the fall.
This vaccine from Moderna is only one of over 100 vaccines in development worldwide. The Gates Foundation and the National Institutes of Health are investing heavily to accelerate those vaccines with the most scientific potential based on early evidence. Moderna is working hard to upscale their manufacturing potential and estimates it could produce 100 million doses a year. Other drug companies are also making plans for increasing manufacturing capability to produce vaccines if their candidates are successful.
Johnson & Johnson plans to begin clinical trials in September and hopes to produce its first batches of vaccine by early next year. Its Netherlands plant could produce 300 million doses annually. Pfizer is also testing several vaccine candidates and plans to have 10 to 20 million doses ready for emergency use this fall.
This is a testament to the ingenuity of the private sector in responding to this healthcare crisis. Fortunately, there is bipartisan support for this effort which has expedited the process. Thirty-five House Democrats and Republicans last month wrote a letter urging the FDA to act more rapidly and nimbly. President Trump has already appointed a task force to shepherd the approval of these new vaccines through the regulatory process.
America can accomplish much when we work together, unleash the “arsenal of democracy” of our private sector, and government facilitates the process. The stock market recognized the significance of this promising news and it should give hope to every American, too.