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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The race for a COVID-19 vaccine is ramping up, with three major candidates now reporting efficacy rates of more than 90%.

Why it matters: Health experts say the world can't fully return to normal until a coronavirus vaccine is widely distributed. But each potential vaccine has its own nuances, and it's likely that multiple vaccines will be needed in order to supply enough doses for universal vaccination.

  • Some global vaccines have been approved for limited distribution, including vaccines in China and Russia that did not wait for Phase 3 results before authorization. Public health authorities warn skipping steps could pose serious risks.
  • No vaccines have been approved for full use.
Major candidates

Pfizer-BioNTech:

  • Efficacy: 95%
  • Vaccine type: mRNA
  • Doses required: 2
  • Storage: Five days in a refrigerator or -70℃ for long-term storage
  • Manufacturing: Up to 50 million doses in 2020 and 1.3 billion in 2021, per Pfizer
  • Cost: $20 per dose
  • State of play: Pfizer has applied for an emergency use authorization (EUA) from the FDA.

Moderna:

  • Efficacy: 94.1%
  • Vaccine type: mRNA
  • Doses required: 2
  • Storage: 30 days in the refrigerator or six months at -20℃
  • Manufacturing: 20 million in 2020 and up to 1 billion in 2021, per Moderna
  • Cost: $32-37
  • State of play: Moderna said it would apply for an EUA on Nov. 30

Oxford-AstraZeneca:

  • Efficacy: 62% to 90%, depending on dosage (average 70.4%)
  • Vaccine type: Combination of common cold virus and coronavirus genetic material
  • Doses required: 1.5
  • Storage: Six months in the refrigerator
  • Manufacturing: Total annual capacity of 3 billion doses, per AstraZeneca
  • Cost: $3-4

Go deeper

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.

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.