Second COVID-19 vaccine results better than expected
A second coronavirus vaccine has delivered results showing it was 94.5 per cent effective, in trials that included people over 65.
Scientists have labelled the results from United States firm Moderna as "tremendously exciting", with the jab found to work even better than the Pfizer and BioNTech inoculation announced last week.
The Moderna research, which Donald Trump fast tracked following a meeting with the company's executives in March, has exceeded expectations.
STOCK MARKET GETTING VERY CLOSE TO 30,000 ON NEW VACCINE NEWS. 95% EFFECTIVE!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 16, 2020
And the Moderna jab could be stored in a standard refrigerator for up to 30 days, or for up to six months in a freezer.
That would make it easier to distribute than the Pfizer jab that needs to be kept at -70 degrees Celsius.
The Moderna trial included volunteers over 65, with the results showing it was effective in elderly people who are at most risk of dying from the disease.
The details were made public on Monday night, with the news being another positive sign that vaccines were able to defeat the killer bug.
Australia has deals for the Oxford University, Pfizer, Novovax and University of Queensland vaccine candidates.
It does not have direct access to the Moderna jab, however it has signed up to the international Gavi COVAX Facility.
That $123 million deal includes an agreement to access up to 10 different vaccines, including Moderna.
Health Minister Greg Hunt told News Corp Australia on Monday night: "The important news is that not only are our candidates progressing well, but the general prospect of a range of effective vaccines is growing daily."
Oxford University and UK pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca were due to report in the coming days or weeks on its results.
Moderna intends to submit an application for an Emergency Use Authorisation with the US Food and Drug Administration shortly and will submit further data on the vaccine's effectiveness and safety.
Scientists were hoping that vaccines would be at least 50 per cent effective, but both results made public so far have smashed their expectations.
Peter Openshaw, professor of experimental medicine at Imperial College London, said: "This news from Moderna is tremendously exciting and considerably boosts optimism that we will have a choice of good vaccines in the next few months.
"First we heard 90% efficacy from Pfizer and BioNTech, then the Russians said 92% and now Moderna says 94.5%," he said.
"Moderna have also announced that the vaccine can be kept in a conventional freezer (-20C) for up to six months, and that once thawed the vaccine can be kept for up to 30 days at standard refrigerator (2 to 8C). This makes the vaccine much easier to deliver."
Stephane Bancel, chief executive officer of Moderna, said the results were a " pivotal moment".
"Since early January, we have chased this virus with the intent to protect as many people around the world as possible," he said.
"All along, we have known that each day matters.
"This positive interim analysis from our Phase 3 study has given us the first clinical validation that our vaccine can prevent COVID-19 disease, including severe disease."
AUSTRALIA RECONSIDERS CHRISTMAS REOPENING
Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the coronavirus "hasn't gone anywhere" and "will seek to exploit any vulnerability", as South Australia races to get a cluster under control.
Mr Morrison said it wasn't surprising that cases could occur from a quarantine facility, as has happened in South Australia, but a strong outbreak response was vital.
"What matters is how you respond in these situations," Mr Morrison said.
"Just as New South Wales saw many small outbreaks, the ability to get on top of them quickly has been essential to coping that state open and now, as Victoria are opens, it is a very timely reminder here and all around the country, whether you have been behind borders or not, the virus doesn't care."
The PM said he hoped South Australia's outbreak would not dash hopes of the nation reopening for Christmas.
"That will depend a lot on the disposition of various states and territories," Mr Morrison said.
He said the federal government was supporting South Australia "in every way that we can".
He said the virus would "exploit any vulnerability" and every individual needed to remain vigilant.
"What matters is how you respond in these situations," Mr Morrison said.
"As Victoria opens, it is a very timely reminder here and all around the country, whether you have been behind borders or not, the virus doesn't care.
"If you are not following COVID-safe behaviours, if you are not following your COVID-safe plan … then, of course, you are creating risks.
"This is a very timely reminder of this very important fact. Borders don't protect you from that."
THREE STATES SHUT SA OUT AMID CLUSTER FEARS
Queensland has imposed travel restrictions on South Australia after a coronavirus cluster was revealed in Adelaide over the weekend.
Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk declared Adelaide as a coronavirus hotspot with those entering from the SA capital from midnight on Monday forced to enter quarantine.
Those who arrived from last Monday will need to self-isolate while they await a test result.
The Sunshine State joins Western Australia, and the Northern Territory to restrict access from South Australia following the outbreak in the city's northern suburbs.
Earlier, The Northern Territory imposed a two week quarantine period, after Chief Minister Michael Gunner and Chief Health Officer Hugh Heggie made the announcement while two flights from Adelaide to Darwin were still in the air.
"The Security and Emergency Management Committee has just met to review the alarming developments in South Australia overnight," he said.
"All the information we're getting right now concerns us, and there is still so much we don't know about this outbreak.
"That's the critical point here is what we don't know that worries us the most given this, we are declaring South Australia, a hotspot for the purposes of travel to Northern Territory effective immediately.
"That means people who are arriving here from South Australia this morning will be directed to supervised quarantine or given the option of returning to South Australia, and people who intend to travel here later today from South Australia will need to make a decision now to stay there, or if they do come here to enter supervise quarantine.
"Because of this late notice those who enter the Northern Territory today or tomorrow from South Australia will not need to pay the $2500."
Scott Morrison said he anticipated other states would make "similar decisions" in the wake of the new outbreak.
Asked if Victoria and New South Wales should close their borders to South Australia, the Prime Minister said: "I'll leave that to both of those states to make those judgments."
In Tasmania, Premier Peter Gutwein has urged those considering travelling to Tasmania from South Australia to "defer their travel" until the SA cluster is "completely understood".
Mr Gutwein said those who have entered Tasmania from South Australia since Monday November 9 (about 900 people) will need to self isolate immediately either in their residence or in their hotel room until the government provided a further update this afternoon.
If any returning travellers are experiencing COVID symptoms, they are urged to phone the Public Health hotline to book in for a test.
It comes as passengers on a Sunday flight from Adelaide to Perth were taken aback after they were told they had to go into two weeks' quarantine on arrival, despite the West Australian government only hours earlier assuring South Australians they could enter the state without having to isolate.
WA Premier Mark McGowan said its health experts consulted with SA Health and ordered the changes immediately in light of the latest outbreak in SA.
NSW TO STAY OPEN TO SA DESPITE OUTBREAK
NSW has continued its local virus-free streak for a ninth consecutive day as Gladys Berejiklian confirmed the state would keep its borders open to South Australia.
Zero cases of community transmission were recorded in the state up to 8pm on Sunday, while two infections were diagnosed in hotel quarantine.
However, Ms Berejiklian said a case of community transmission was picked up during the last 24 hours but is believed to be an old infection from October.
"In that case we're still doing extremely well," she told reporters on Monday.
The announcement comes as South Australian health authorities race to contain the state's first COVID-19 outbreak since April.
There are now 17 cases linked to one cluster.
But Ms Berejiklian said the border between NSW and South Australia would remain open for now.
"I don't think it is a sensible approach moving forward to shut your borders every time there is an outbreak. We are in the pandemic. We know there will be outbreaks," she said.
The Premier recognised it was critical to get on top of those outbreaks, and NSW health authorities would remain in constant talks with their South Australian counterparts.
"At the end of the day, with need to live with the pandemic, and that is why I say to every state, have confidence in your system," she said.
"Open up so that if there is an outbreak, we can all support each other and work together."
SOUTH AUSTRALIA'S COVID-19 CLUSTER GROWS
South Australia is rushing to contain a new coronavirus cluster after cases jumped from just three to 17 overnight.
A Hungry Jacks worker and an aged care worker are among the new cases.
It comes after three people outside of hotel quarantine tested positive to the virus.
SA Health said an 80-year-old woman had tested positive after being treated at the Lyell McEwin Hospital in Adelaide's northern suburbs, it was revealed on Sunday.
Two of her close contacts - a woman in her 50s and a man in his 60s - were also diagnosed with COVID-19.
One of the patients worked in one of the state's medi-hotels and another is an employee at Yatala Labour Prison.
Chief public health officer Professor Nicola Spurrier said four other family members were showing symptoms.
Some staff at Lyell McEwin Hospital have been told to quarantine.
Mawson Lakes primary and preschool were closed for at least 24 hours out of caution after it was found a student is a close contact of a confirmed case.
Shoppers who were at the Parafield Plaza supermarket centre between 10.30am and 11.30am last Thursday have been told to get tested after it was revealed the elderly woman spent 20 minutes shopping at the centre that day.
More venues are expected soon to be named and people who attended at certain times advised to be tested.
The cases are the first community transmission in the state since April 15.
SA Premier Steven Marshall today told ABC Radio Adelaide said the state was in for an "anxious" 24 to 48 hours.
"This is a very dangerous situation - time is of the essence. It's really a very worrying situation and we must act swiftly," he said.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said he had received advice that SA's contact tracing system was strong.
"We are standing up the National Incident Centre contact tracing capability to assist SA," he told ABC Breakfast.
"If South Australia requires the Australian Defence Force, then the Prime Minister has offered to make them available.
"If more is required, more will be provided."
VICTORIANS ENJOY 17TH DAY OF ZERO CASES
Victoria has recorded its 17th straight day of zero new coronavirus cases and no deaths.
The Department of Health and Human Services confirmed zero new infections and no deaths this morning.
The number of active cases remains steady at three, while there are no infections from an unknown source.
A total of 6695 tests results were received in the past 24 hours, which has fallen steadily from the 20,819 people tested on Thursday.
The last positive cases of coronavirus in Victoria were on October 30 when four infections were recorded.
Victoria hasn't recorded 17 or more consecutive days of zero new COVID-19 cases since between February 1 and 21.
Victoria has recorded 20,345 coronavirus cases and 819 deaths since the start of the pandemic, with 19,523 people having recovered as of Monday.
Two Victorians are in hospital with coronavirus.
Originally published as Second COVID-19 vaccine results better than expected