Moderna will have 20M COVID-19 vaccines ready this year

Biotech firm Moderna expects to have about 20 million doses of its experimental coronavirus vaccine ready to ship in the US by the end of the year.

The Massachusetts-based drug developer will be prepared to distribute the vaccine, dubbed mRNA-1273, around the country if its late-stage clinical study proves that it works and the feds approve it, according to company officials.

“From a distribution standpoint, we’re ready,” Dr. Tal Zaks, Moderna’s chief medical officer, told investors on a Thursday conference call. “We expect mRNA-1273 to be distributed within existing infrastructure. There’s nothing new required that hasn’t already been used for years with many other vaccines.”

Moderna said it’s “actively preparing” for the launch of its vaccine, which is one of four going through Phase 3 clinical trials in the US. The company has enrolled 30,000 people in the study and has said it could have enough data to seek emergency approval for the shot by the end of November.

In its third-quarter earnings report, Moderna said it’s received more than $1.1 billion in deposits for the vaccine from governments around the world including $600 million from the US, which has an agreement to acquire up to 500 million doses.

The company expects to make good on those commitments by supplying somewhere between 500 million and 1 billion doses of the shot in 2021, according to chief financial officer David Meline.

But that all depends on whether the Phase 3 trial of the vaccine is successful and whether the Food and Drug Administration ultimately approves the shot. Moderna plans to conduct its first analysis of the vaccine’s efficacy when 53 participants in the study develop symptomatic cases of COVID-19, which could clear the way for the company to seek an emergency use authorization from the feds.

“I believe that if we launch our COVID-19 vaccine, 2021 could be the most important inflection year in Moderna’s history,” CEO Stéphane Bancel said in a statement.