Moderna puts US at top of COVID-19 vaccine rollout

Moderna has revealed more COVID-19 vaccine production details, outlining the ramp-up of its drug as we head into early 2021. The vaccine candidate, which the FDA will hold a public Vaccines and Related Biological Products Advisory Committee meeting on later this month, is currently being considered for emergency use authorization as the pandemic toll continues to rise.

Moderna's drug, mRNA-1273, is one of two high-profile mRNA vaccines in development. Rival big pharma company Pfizer is also submitting its vaccine candidate to the FDA for an EUA, while an alternative vaccine in development at the University of Oxford takes a different approach.

Previously, Moderna has said it aims to have around 20 million doses available in the US of mRNA-1273 by the end of the year. However, 2021 will see a sharp uptick in supplies, the company has claimed, with 500 million to 1 billion doses expected to be produced. That number, however, will be shared out globally.

Now, however, Moderna has added further detail to that roll-out of vaccine supplies. The pharmaceutical firm now "expects to have between 100 million and 125 million doses available globally in the first quarter of 2021," it said in a press statement. Of that number, 85-100 million doses are expected to be prioritized for the US.

The remaining 15-25 million are expected to be made available outside of the US, Moderna says. The figures are inclusive within the 500 million to 1 billion doses for 2021.

It's recognition, perhaps, that the rise of COVID-19 in the United States shows little signs of slowing. As of today, December 4, total deaths in the US due to the coronavirus have exceeded 275,000, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed. Total cases, meanwhile, have broken the 14 million barrier.

The bad news is only expected to increase, when the fallout from Thanksgiving travel last week begins to make itself known. Despite CDC recommendations that Americans cancel travel and continue to socially-isolate over the holidays, many still took to the road or flew to gather with friends and family elsewhere in the country. It's a decision that's predicted to cause a sharp uptick in COVID-19 cases, as the infection moves out of its incubation period and symptoms begin to show.

Even assuming EUAs are granted for both Moderna and Pfizer's drugs, there's still some way to go before widespread vaccination is feasible. Priority is expected to be given to first-responders and frontline workers, along with essential workers and those with preexisting conditions that would make them more susceptible to the severe effects of coronavirus infection. Some estimates peg broader public availability of COVID-19 vaccines as only being a possibility in the summer of 2021.

For now – and with Christmas approaching – the advice remains to socially-distance as much as possible, to wear masks, and to continue hand-washing and taking cleanliness precautions. The CDC has said it recommends canceling upcoming holiday travel, too.