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Moderna seeks FDA emergency approval for coronavirus vaccine

The drug company reports that its mRNA vaccine is 94.1% effective against COVID-19.

STR/NurPhoto via Getty Images
For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO and CDC websites.

Moderna will apply to the US Food and Drug Administration to authorize its coronavirus vaccine for emergency use, the drug company said Monday. Its data shows that the vaccine is 94.1% effective against COVID-19, similar to results it reported earlier this month.

The first injections may come as soon as Dec. 21 if the FDA gives its approval, The New York Times reported Moderna CEO Stéphane Bancel as saying.

That would be almost exactly a year after word first emerged from China of a novel coronavirus that had appeared in the city of Wuhan. Within a few months, the virus had spread around the globe. It has now infected more than 62 million people worldwide, resulting in 1.4 million deaths.

Moderna is the second company to apply for emergency use authorization from the FDA. Pfizer submitted an application for its vaccine on Nov. 20, the Times noted.

The speed of development and testing by those two companies, and a number of others, is unprecedented. Vaccines can take over a decade to create. If Pfizer's and Moderna's formulas are as effective as early data suggests, they could herald a new era in vaccine and therapeutic design.

That's because both companies used a pioneering technology known as synthetic messenger RNA, or mRNA, a molecule that tells cells how to build proteins. With that, you can trick cells into producing proteins usually found in SARS-CoV-2, which is the virus that causes COVID-19, and then stimulate the immune system -- without making patients sick -- to provide protection against infection.

If it gets the necessary approvals, Moderna hopes to have around 20 million doses available in the US by the end of the year and said it could manufacture 500 million to 1 billion doses globally in 2021.

See also: COVID-19 vaccines will arrive soon, but you could be last in line. Here's who will get one first

Other companies working on coronavirus vaccines include AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson and Novavax.

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said earlier this month that he's hopeful about the progress made in the development of vaccines to treat COVID-19. Much of his work in philanthropy over the last decade with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been focused on fighting diseases.

"Almost all the vaccines will work and with very high efficacy levels," Gates told CNN's Fareed Zakaria in an interview. "I'm optimistic that by February it's very likely that they'll all prove very efficacious and safe."

CNET's Jackson Ryan contributed to this story.

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