Moderna vaccine stability enables distribution in rural America -U.S. official

Nov 16 (Reuters) - Moderna Inc’s COVID-19 vaccine will be easy to distribute, particularly to rural areas, because it can be stored for one month at standard refrigerator temperatures, Matthew Hepburn, head of vaccines for the U.S. Operation Warp Speed program, said on Monday.

Hepburn’s comments followed release of interim results from a late-stage clinical trial that showed the experimental vaccine to be 94.5% effective in preventing COVID-19.

Moderna on Monday also said its vaccine is expected to be stable at standard refrigerator temperatures of 2 to 8 degrees Celsius (36 to 48°F) for 30 days, up from a previous projection of up to seven days. That contrasts with Pfizer Inc’s vaccine candidate, which must be shipped and stored at ultra cold temperatures or on dry ice and can only last at standard refrigerator temperatures for up to five days.

“The stability testing for this (Moderna’s) vaccine is an ongoing process,” Hepburn said during a press call. “Now, we could be cautiously optimistic that it may prove to be even more stable once those longer-term tests are completed.”

Pfizer last Monday released initial data on its vaccine developed with German partner BioNTech SE, which also showed it to be more than 90% effective.

Both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines use a new technology called synthetic messenger RNA to activate the immune system against the virus. Experts have raised concerns about the distribution challenges associated with Pfizer’s vaccine due to its specialized storage requirements.

Reporting by Manojna Maddipatla in Bengaluru; Editing by Bill Berkrot