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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

We're living in a pandemic split screen: There are now two coronavirus vaccines in the late stage of development that appear to be highly effective. But the first Americans will likely receive them against a backdrop of yet-to-be-seen pandemic horrors.

Why it matters: The end of the pandemic is increasingly in sight. But today's case counts all but ensure that the U.S. won't make it there without the nightmare scenario of overrun health systems all across the country.

Driving the news: Moderna announced yesterday that its vaccine is nearly 95% effective — a week after Pfizer made a similarly encouraging announcement.

  • Moderna also said its vaccine appears to have prevented severe infections, a detail left unaddressed in the Pfizer announcement.
  • Additionally, it appears to have protected elderly participants and participants of color — groups ravaged by the pandemic.
  • It's still unclear how long the immunity offered by either vaccine would last. That has implications for manufacturing and how frequently people would need boosters, as well as for the ongoing risk of transmitting the virus, as STAT notes.

What we're watching: Both vaccines will likely file for emergency authorizations from the Food and Drug Administration over the next few weeks, and the two companies combined are expected to produce enough doses for 35 million people by the end of the year.

Yes, but: The number of doses Moderna is expected to produce this year "won't even cover all of America's frontline health care workers," tweeted Angela Rasmussen, a virologist with Georgetown University. "So my take home message is we still have many months to go."

Go deeper

Jan 29, 2021 - Health

WHO says most pregnant women can now receive coronavirus vaccine

A doctor administering Moderna's coronavirus vaccine at a university hospital in Essen, Germany, on Jan. 18. Photo: Lukas Schulze/Getty Images

The World Health Organization has altered its guidance for pregnant women who wish to receive the coronavirus vaccine, saying now that those at high risk of exposure to the COVID-19 or who have comorbidities that increase their risk of severe disease, may be vaccinated.

Why it matters: The WHO drew backlash for its previous guidance that did not recommend pregnant women be inoculated with vaccines made by Pfizer-BioNTech or Moderna, even though data indicated that pregnancy increased the risk of developing severe illness from the virus.

Jan 29, 2021 - Health

Ex-CDC director Tom Frieden on the next COVID-19 vaccines

Americans fortunate enough to receive COVID vaccines now, outside of clinical trials, are getting shots made by either Pfizer or Moderna. But newly released data from Novavax and Johnson & Johnson suggests that more vaccines could be on the way, with J&J's requiring a single dose.

Axios Re:Cap digs into the news and why it matters with Tom Frieden, former head of the CDC, as COVID-19 variants spread globally.

Jan 29, 2021 - World

EU grants conditional approval of AstraZeneca vaccine

Photo: Sunil Ghosh/Hindustan Times via Getty Images

The European Commission on Friday granted conditional approval of the Oxford-AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine for people 18 years and older.

Why it matters: This is the third vaccine to receive approval from the commission, coming hours after the Emergency Medicines Agency recommended its authorization.