South Florida helped play a key role in the development of a potential COVID-19 vaccine that was reported Monday to be more than 94% effective.
University of Miami researchers have been conducting clinical trials for the vaccine from Moderna, which said Monday that preliminary data from the ongoing study showed it to be 94.5% effective.
The announcement came after Pfizer made a similar announcement about their vaccine last week.
"So now we have two vaccines that are really quite effective, so I think this is a really strong step forward to where we want to be about getting control of this outbreak," leading infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said.
It was announced over the summer that UM's Miller School of Medicine was launching a testing site to run clinical trials of potential vaccines.
Officials said participants would not be intentionally infected with the disease, but rather monitored to see if the vaccine caused them to produces antibodies that counter the virus and prevent COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
Dr. Maria Alcaide, a UM medical professor and co-investigator for the Moderna vaccine trial, said hundreds of South Florida residents are enrolled in the trial.
“It is very promising,” she said. “It’s really exciting that we are seeing results not only in the Moderna trial, but also in other vaccine trials.”
If the FDA gives the vaccine its okay, the first people being prioritized for vaccination will be health care personnel and other essential workers, according to a draft plan by the Florida Department of Health.
Then people with medical conditions that put them at high risk, followed by those at least 65 years old.
The general public may get its first opportunities to get the vaccine by next spring.
If all goes well, Dr. Joshua Lenchus, chief medical officer for Broward Health Medical Center, said, “We could see some elements of a return to normalcy if people get vaccinated by the middle of next year.”
The number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. has surpassed 11 million in recent days.
If the Food and Drug Administration allows emergency use of Moderna's or Pfizer's candidates, there will be limited, and rationed, supplies before the end of the year. Moderna expects to have about 20 million doses, earmarked for the U.S., by the end of 2020. Pfizer and its German partner BioNTech expect to have about 50 million doses globally by year's end.