17 Nov 2020
MODERNA VACCINE FOUND TO BE 94.5% EFFECTIVE
Moderna Inc's experimental vaccine was 94.5% effective in preventing
COVID-19 based on interim data from a late-stage trial, the company said on
Monday, becoming the second U.S. drugmaker to report results that far exceed
Together with Pfizer Inc's vaccine, which is also more than 90% effective,
and pending more safety data and regulatory review, the United States could
have two vaccines authorized for emergency use in December with as many as
60 million doses of vaccine available this year.
Next year, the U.S. government could have access to more than 1 billion
doses just from the two vaccine makers, more than needed for the country's
330 million residents.
The vaccines, both developed with new technology known as messenger RNA
(mRNA), represent powerful tools to fight a pandemic that has infected 54
million people worldwide and killed 1.3 million. The news also comes at time
when COVID-19 cases are soaring, hitting new records in the United States
and pushing some European countries back into lockdowns.
Moderna's interim analysis was based on 95 infections among trial
participants who received either a placebo or the vaccine. Of those, only
five infections occurred in those who received the vaccine, which is
administered in two shots 28 days apart.
A key advantage of Moderna's vaccine is that it does not need ultra-cold
storage like Pfizer's, making it easier to distribute. Moderna expects it to
be stable at normal fridge temperatures of 2 to 8 degrees Celsius (36 to
48°F) for 30 days and it can be stored for up to 6 months at -20C.
Pfizer's vaccine must be shipped and stored at -70C, the sort of temperature
typical of an Antarctic winter. It can be stored for up to five days at
standard refrigerator temperatures or for up to 15 days in a thermal
The data from Moderna's trial involving 30,000 volunteers also showed the
vaccine prevented cases of severe COVID-19, a question that still remains
with the Pfizer vaccine. Of the 95 cases in Moderna's trial, 11 were severe
and all 11 occurred among volunteers who got the placebo.
Moderna, part of the U.S. government's Operation Warp Speed program, expects
to produce about 20 million doses for the United States this year, millions
of which the company has already made and is ready to ship if it gets FDA
"Assuming we get an emergency use authorization, we'll be ready to ship
through Warp Speed almost in hours," Hoge said. "So it could start being
Most side effects were mild to moderate. A significant proportion of
volunteers, however, experienced more severe aches and pains after taking
the second dose, including about 10% who had fatigue severe enough to
interfere with daily activities while another 9% had severe body aches. Most
of these complaints were generally short-lived, Moderna said.
The U.S. government has said COVID-19 vaccines will be provided free to
Americans, whether they have health insurance, are uninsured or are covered
by government health programs such as Medicare.
Moderna also said it would use its data to seek authorization in Europe and
Europe's health regulator said on Monday it had launched a real-time
"rolling review" of Moderna's vaccine, following similar reviews of vaccines
from Pfizer and AstraZeneca.
TRUMP'S NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER NODS TO BIDEN'S VICTORY
President Donald Trump's National Security Council is preparing for "a very
professional transition," because it looks like Joe Biden has won the
election, national security adviser Robert O'Brien said in comments that
His remarks stood in stark contrast to those of the president, who tweeted
falsely just before midnight Sunday, "I WON THE ELECTION," as he continued
to make baseless claims of widespread fraud. Twitter put a warning label on
the tweet, noting that "official sources have called this election
The president's top security official, known as a Trump loyalist, offered a
"Look, if the Biden-Harris ticket is determined to be the winner and
obviously things look that way now we'll have a very professional
transition from the National Security Council," O'Brien said in remarks made
last week that streamed on the web Monday morning as part of a global
security forum sponsored by the Soufan Center.
States face a December 8 safe harbor deadline to certify their elections
and choose electors who will officially select the new president on Dec 14.
BIDEN: 'MORE PEOPLE MAY DIE' AS TRUMP TRANSITION STALLS
Joe Biden has warned "people may die" if his incoming presidential
administration continues to be impeded by Donald Trump.
Speaking in Delaware, the president-elect said co-ordination was needed to
tackle the coronavirus outbreak.
He called President Trump's refusal to acknowledge he lost the vote, despite
calls to do so from both sides, "totally irresponsible".
"This is not a game," former first lady Michelle Obama wrote on social
President-elect Biden has 306 votes in the electoral college, surpassing the
270 threshold needed to win.
Yet Mr Trump, a Republican, tweeted on Monday morning: "I won the Election!"
In his speech on Monday, Mr Biden said of the stalled transition: "Does
anyone understand this? It's about saving lives, for real, this is not
"More people may die if we don't co-ordinate," he added.
Calling nationwide vaccine distribution a "huge, huge undertaking", Mr Biden
said that if his team had to wait until 20 January - his presidential
inauguration - until they could begin work on the distribution programme,
they would be behind by "over a month, month and a half".
TRUMP TO ORDER TROOP REDUCTIONS IN AFGHANISTAN, IRAQ
The Trump administration is expected to cut the number of U.S. troops in
Afghanistan almost in half to 2,500 by Jan. 15, a U.S. official said Monday.
The order would stop short of outgoing President Donald Trumps goal to have
all troops withdrawn by the end of the year, which had faced opposition from
military and diplomatic advisers.
The Pentagon also expects to cut the number of troops in Iraq to 2,500, a
reduction of more than 500. The decisions follow Mr. Trumps shakeup of the
Pentagon last week in which he installed loyalists who share his frustration
with the continued troop presence in the Middle East.
It would give Trump an accomplishment in his final weeks in office even as
he refuses to concede his election loss to Joe Biden.
The official said military leaders were told over the weekend about the
planned withdrawals and an executive order is in the works but has not yet
been delivered to commanders.
UNDER PRESSURE TO RECOGNIZE ISRAEL, SAYS IMRAN
Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has said that his government is under
pressure to recognize Israel, insisting that Islamabad would never establish
relations with the "Zionists".
Khan revealed this during an interview with a private television, where he
stated that after the recognition of Israel by Arab countries including the
United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Bahrain, Islamabad is also being asked to
recognize Israel, something that his government has rejected till now.
"I have no second thought about recognizing Israel unless there is a just
settlement, which satisfies Palestines," he said.
When asked to name the countries, which have insisted on Islamabad to
recognize Israel, Khan refrained from pin pointing and opted to be silent on
"There are things we cannot say. We have good relations with them," he said.
Khan reiterated that founding father of Pakistan Quaid-e-Azad Muhammad Ali
Jinnah had refused to recognize Israel, adding: "Islamabad would continue to
follow in Jinnah's footsteps vis-a-vis Palestine."
Khan said Israel has a strong influence in the US, which he said is "another
country pressurizing him to recognize Israel".
"The pressure is because of Israel's deep impact (influence) in the US. This
influence was in fact extraordinary during the (US President Donald) Trump
stint," he said.
ISRAELI MILITARY STRIKES HAMAS TARGETS IN GAZA AFTER ROCKET FIRING
The Israeli military said it struck Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip early
Sunday after militants fired two rockets from the Palestinian territory.
In a statement, the military said fighter jets, attack helicopters and tanks
hit Hamas underground infrastructure and military posts. It said two rockets
were launched into Israel, with one reaching the southern Israeli city of
Ashdod and the other stretching into central Israel.
There were no immediate reports of injuries on either side. The military
said the rockets landed in open areas.
NEVADA FIRST US STATE TO RECOGNIZE GAY MARRIAGE IN ITS CONSTITUTION
Nevada has become the first US state to enshrine in its constitution the
right of gay couples to marry, overturning an 18-year ban on same-sex
The measure was put to voters during the recent presidential election on
November 3 and the final results were published in recent days.
Voters approved the "Marriage Regardless of Gender Amendment" by 62 percent,
with 38 percent against, according to the Nevada secretary of state's
"It feels good that we let the voters decide," advocacy group Equality
Nevada president Chris Davin told NBC News. "The people said this, not
judges or lawmakers. This was direct democracy - it's how everything should
He said the initiative was important to members of the LGBTQ community, many
of whom are concerned that the new majority conservative US Supreme Court
may seek to revoke the ruling that protects same-sex marriage federally.
The new Nevada law overturns a 2002 referendum approved by voters that
defined marriage as between "a male and a female person."
TURKEY SEEKS APPROVAL TO DEPLOY PEACEKEEPERS IN AZERBAIJAN
Turkeys government submitted a motion to Parliament on Monday seeking its
approval to deploy peacekeepers to monitor a ceasefire agreement between
Azerbaijan and Armenia, the state-run news agency reported.
Turkey, which threw its weight behind its ally Azerbaijan in the conflict,
has been engaged in talks with Russia for a role in monitoring the ceasefire
that ended six weeks of intense fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia over
the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Russian and Turkish Defence Ministers signed a memorandum on Wednesday to
create a joint monitoring center in Azerbaijan.
The Bill submitted to Parliament requests a one-year mandate to send Turkish
peacekeepers, adding that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would determine the
number of troops to be sent.
The motion is expected to be debated in coming days. The motion states that
civilian personnel could also be deployed as part of the peacekeeping
It has been assessed that for the Turkish Armed Forces personnel ... to
take part in the Joint Center which Turkey and Russia will form together,
will be beneficial for the peace and welfare of the regions people and is
necessary from the point of our national interests, the state-run Anadolu
Agency stated from the motion.