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Moderna says its coronavirus vaccine shows promising results in small trial of elderly patients

Biotechnology company Moderna protocol files for COVID-19 vaccinations are kept at the Research Centers of America in Hollywood, Florida, on August 13, 2020.

Chandan Khanna | AFP | Getty Images

Moderna‘s potential coronavirus vaccine generated a promising immune response in elderly patients in an early-stage clinical trial, the biotech firm announced Wednesday.

The company tested its vaccine on 10 adults between ages 56 and 70 and 10 elderly adults aged 71 and older, Moderna said. Each participant received two 100 microgram doses of the vaccine 28 days apart.

The volunteers produced neutralizing antibodies, which researchers believe are necessary to build immunity to the virus, and killer T-cells, Moderna said in its results, which have not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal. Additionally, the antibodies that were produced were higher than those seen in people who have recovered from Covid-19. 

The vaccine also appeared to be well tolerated, with no serious adverse events reported, the company said. Some patients reported fatigue, chills, headaches and pain at the injection site, though the majority of symptoms resolved within two days, the company said. 

Moderna will hold a conference call Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. ET discussing the results.

The vaccine from Moderna is one of several in development to fight the coronavirus, which has infected more than 23.9 million people worldwide and killed at least 820,100, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. There are more than 170 vaccines in development worldwide, according to the World Health Organization. At least 31 are in clinical trials, according to the WHO.

Moderna’s experimental vaccine contains genetic material called messenger RNA, or mRNA, which scientists hope provokes the immune system to fight the virus. In May, the company released preliminary data that showed the vaccine produced antibodies in 45 healthy adults.

Scientists had previously cautioned that the phase one study was small, and the results may differ for other populations, including the elderly who generally mount a weaker immune response. The new data Wednesday will likely boost hopes that there could be a safe and effective vaccine to prevent Covid-19 by the end of the year or early 2021.

Last month, Moderna began a late-stage trial for its vaccine. It hopes to enroll up to 30,000 participants.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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