The European Union is preparing to make the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine available to all its member countries, as the European Medicines Agency recommends authorizing the drug on a conditional basis.
"Now we are working at full speed to approve it & make it available in the EU," said EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, as she welcomed the news.
The medical agency's human medicines committee endorsed the Moderna vaccine during a meeting Wednesday, saying it is safe and effective for people 18 and older.
It would be the second vaccine to get EU authorization. Europeans have been receiving shots of the Pfizer vaccine since it was approved last month.
The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, will now fast-track its decision about whether to authorize use of the vaccine. Last month, it granted authorization for the Pfizer vaccine within hours of the regulator's green light.
"This vaccine provides us with another tool to overcome the current emergency," said Emer Cooke, executive director of the European Medicines Agency, hailing the arrival of another vaccine less than a year after the pandemic was declared.
Like the Pfizer vaccine, the Moderna vaccine requires two doses to be effective. Both medicines work by using messenger RNA to induce the body to produce antibodies to help fight off an infection by the coronavirus. They essentially trick the body into making the same spike protein that the virus uses to invade cells — but without the dangerous coronavirus being present.
As the EU panel explains, regarding the vaccination process:
"When a person is given the vaccine, some of their cells will read the mRNA instructions and temporarily produce the spike protein. The person's immune system will then recognize this protein as foreign and produce antibodies and activate T cells (white blood cells) to attack it.
"If, later on, the person comes into contact with SARS-CoV-2 virus, their immune system will recognize it and be ready to defend the body against it."
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says, "The benefit of mRNA vaccines, like all vaccines, is those vaccinated gain this protection without ever having to risk the serious consequences of getting sick with COVID-19."
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