We finally have a vaccine!
Or vaccines, for that matter! Moderna Inc. has released the interim data of its novel coronavirus vaccine and humanity could not be more thrilled. The mRNA-1273 vaccine developed by Moderna is probably just the thing all of us have been dreaming of in the last year or so. The good news is that the company has announced its results when Pfizer and other competitors have also claimed that their vaccines are more than 90 percent effective. That is what the more the merrier feels like! But while the developed countries are over the moon post-Moderna news, what does it mean for the developing countries? What does the news mean for a country like Pakistan that has confessed Pfizer vaccine’s unsuitability for the country? Is Moderna coming to Pakistan and if so, when will Pakistan start its vaccination program? We answer these and many other questions in this debate!
Moderna vaccine: How does it work?
The Moderna vaccine, like the Pfizer vaccine, is an mRNA vaccine dubbed as the mRNA-1273 vaccine. We are sure that like many others, you are interested in finding out how the vaccine works as well. So, let us talk a bit about how stuff works before we jump into more topic-specific details. Well, when you get a shot of this vaccine, the molecules will release mRNA molecules when they enter the cells. The cellular machinery will read this mRNA sequence and construct the SARS-CoV-2 virus spike protein which the nucleic acid encodes. This then leads to foreign invader immune response, T-cells play a major role in this response while the B-cells develop the much-needed memory against the novel virus that has killed millions all across the world so far. We have kept it simple since this is not an immunology lecture!
Numbers that give us hope!
How effective is the Moderna vaccine actually? Well, according to the company, its novel coronavirus vaccine is about 94.5 percent effective. Now that is a whopping big number! 30,000 people were a part of Moderna’s clinical trials, which goes on to show that the sample size was more than suitable as well. Moderna’s announcement has come at a time when some valid questions are being raised over the Pfizer vaccine despite its claimed efficacy and effectiveness. No wonder Moderna’s stocks are higher than ever!
Superior to the Pfizer vaccine!
Now, we are not undermining the good work done by Pfizer. No, God knows how happy everyone is for not one but two vaccines released at the same time! However, there are a few things that make Moderna’s vaccine a better choice than the Pfizer vaccine. One, the mRNA 1273 vaccine by Moderna can be stored at normal fridge temperatures, a feature that Pfizer’s vaccine doesn’t have. Secondly, a closer look at the clinical trials run by Moderna shows that the company’s vaccine was able to cure more cases of severe COVID-19, an issue on which Pfizer still has to satisfy the FDA and other concerned healthcare bodies.
The unique thing about Moderna (and Pfizer’s) vaccines!
Just one more interesting fact and then we answer the main question of the debate! Well, no RNA vaccines have been used previously on such a massive scale. Yes, a few have made an appearance in clinical trials, but largely, the live and attenuated vaccines have dominated the vaccination programs. So, it will be really interesting to see how the immune systems of different populations all over the world respond to the mRNA-1273 vaccine.
How much will the Moderna vaccine cost Pakistan?
Is Moderna coming to Pakistan is a question that will be answered best by evaluating costs rather than efficacy, as far as developing countries like Pakistan are considered. Currently, Moderna has set the pricing per dose at $25, which means 50 USD for two shots that are mandatory to become immune against the virus. Pakistan has a population of 220 million. Hence, billions of dollars will be required to purchase the Moderna Vaccine for every Pakistani. Looking at Pakistan’s current financial deplorability, it is going to be a tough feat to accomplish.
Moderna’s competitors in Pakistan
What are Pakistan’s choices if it doesn’t go for the Moderna vaccine? Well, there is the Chinese vaccine developed by CanSinoBio, which is being administered at five different clinical sites in the country already. Pakistan also has an offer from Russia as well for its SPUTNIK-V coronavirus vaccine. So, in terms of options, Pakistan doesn’t have a shortage. It is the shortage of immunization facilities in the country that will affect the country’s mass vaccination program more, once any vaccine is purchased.
What is the government’s official stance?
Pakistan is still to finalize its decision-making process as far as the COVID-19 vaccine shopping is concerned. Dr.Atta heads the task force for science and technology in the country, and he is not too hopeful about the Pfizer vaccine. In Dr.Atta’s opinion, the Chinese vaccine made by CanSinoBio is a much more suitable candidate for the Pakistani population. This is exactly the reason why fiver trial sites are operating with this vaccine in the country, including AKU, SKMH, and UHS. Not much has been said about Moderna’s vaccine on an official level so far.
Is the Moderna vaccine coming to Pakistan then?
Well, we have to look at things logically, have to weigh all the pros and cons! On the one side of the coin, we have a vaccine that can be stored at the normal temperature, unlike Pfizer’s vaccine which needs a -70 degree. On the other hand, Moderna’s vaccine is too pricey at the moment. Its two shots are going to cost a person $12 more than the Pfizer vaccine. Plus, its suitability for the Pakistani population still needs to be determined absolutely. We are not ruling it out completely, but for now, it appears as if Moderna’s vaccine is not the most favorite choice For Pakistan’s healthcare board. But if the prices do come down a nit, Pakistan might consider going for Moderna’s product, which would be just great, speaking frankly!
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