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Max Nisen

Vaccine Developers Like Moderna Need to Take Their Time

Positive study results have arrived quickly, but the next steps will be slower.

One company has had good early results.

One company has had good early results.

Photographer: JOSEPH PREZIOSO/AFP via Getty Images

The fast pace at which various laboratories are working on vaccines against Covid-19 carries both promise and peril. On Monday, Moderna Therapeutics Inc. announced the first reported data from human trials, and they are positive. That’s good news, and it arrived sooner than expected. But the parts of the project that lie ahead will be harder to accomplish with speed. 

Eight patients who received low and medium doses of the Moderna’s candidate vaccine appear to have developed antibodies capable of neutralizing the new coronavirus. The company didn’t have detailed data on the rest of the 45 trial participants, but all generated at least some antibodies. It was early data from a small study, though, and the limited results don’t prove that the vaccine provides broad and durable protection. Also, while there were no serious safety issues, three patients who received the highest dose of the vaccine briefly suffered modest “flu-like symptoms” after their second injection.