Crucial Moderna Covid vaccine data is coming in days — here’s what to look out for

Investors anticipate Moderna’s vaccine will be highly effective, especially after Pfizer, another frontrunner in the Covid-19 vaccine, said Monday that its vaccine was 90% effective, said Brad Loncar, a biotech investor and chief executive officer at Loncar Investments. Moderna’s product, like Pfizer, is using messenger RNA, or mRNA, technology, a new approach to vaccines that uses genetic material to provoke an immune response.

Pfizer’s vaccine news definitely bodes well for Moderna, Loncar said in a phone interview with CNBC.

Loncar said he doesn’t expect Moderna’s stock to tick lower if its effectiveness is a little less than Pfizer’s, adding Moderna already has supply deals and the world will need multiple vaccines to slow the pandemic. “It’ll still go up if the number is real close [to Pfizer’s], he said. “But if it is significantly lower than that, then I do think it could be a problem.”

The Food and Drug Administration had indicated it would approve a vaccine that’s safe and at least 50% effective.

Pfizer, which is working with German drugmaker BioNTech, said Monday its analysis evaluated 94 confirmed Covid-19 infections among the trial’s 43,538 participants. Pfizer said the case split between vaccinated individuals and those who received a placebo indicated a vaccine efficacy rate of above 90% at seven days after the second of the company’s two-dose Covid-19 vaccine.

“We are reaching this critical milestone in our vaccine development program at a time when the world needs it most with infection rates setting new records, hospitals nearing over-capacity and economies struggling to reopen,” Pfizer Chairman and CEO Dr. Albert Bourla said Monday.

It’s unknown how many infections will be evaluated in Moderna’s interim analysis. And while Moderna may announce the vaccine’s overall effectiveness, the public will likely still have to wait for other key details, like how effective the vaccine is in the elderly or people with preexisting conditions, said Paul Offit, director of the Vaccine Education Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Pfizer’s was “just a press release,” Offit said. “You don’t really know what the data are,” he said, adding the public doesn’t know exactly what level of disease was being prevented with Pfizer’s vaccine and may not know until the vaccine has already been used on millions of people.

Safety data will also be crucial, he said. The FDA has said drugmakers need to provide at least two months of safety data after vaccinating volunteers before asking the agency to consider granting emergency use authorization.

Earlier this year, participants in Moderna and Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine trials told CNBC that they were experiencing high fever, body aches, bad headaches, daylong exhaustion and other symptoms after receiving the shots. But in interviews, all five participants — three in Moderna’s study and two in Pfizer’s trials — said they think the discomfort is worth it to protect themselves against the coronavirus.

Loncar also said he’ll be watching out for any information on how well the vaccine generates T-cells, which scientists expect plays a role in long-term immunity against the virus. Data so far has suggested Pfizer’s vaccine triggers a stronger T-cell response than Moderna’s candidate, he said. “That’s always made people a little nervous.”