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Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Moderna has joined Pfizer in approaching the vaccine finish line, with a vaccine candidate the company says was 94.5% effective at preventing infection. Pfizer's candidate, announced last week, was over 90%.

Why it matters: There could be two U.S. vaccines in distribution before the New Year. This is a reason for Americans to buckle down for one last stretch to help save lives.

  • There are a million new cases nationwide in the past six days alone.
  • U.S. deaths are once again over 1,000 a day.
  • Hospitals are filling up and health workers are stretched thin.

Now there's hope: The two companies plan to apply for emergency-use authorization later this month, and they could begin to immunize 20 million people as soon as December.

  • Health care workers are at the top of the list, followed by essential workers, people with high-risk medical conditions and senior citizens.
  • The general public could be offered the vaccine as soon as April, Dr. Anthony Fauci said today.
  • "This does not mean that in April, everybody who’s going to be wanting a vaccine who’s not in the priority group is going to get it. It means starting at that point, you would likely begin to use those," he said.

Between the lines: Moderna’s vaccine can be kept in standard freezer storage for up to six months and refrigerators for up to 30 days — unlike Pfizer's candidate, which needs to be stored at ultra-cold temperatures.

The bottom line: Governors would ultimately have the final say of how to roll out the vaccine in their states.

  • New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) this morning: “This vaccination process has not been thought through at all. ... They're now saying we're going to do vaccines and distribution. You start off with a very high level of skepticism among the general population. That's 50% that don't trust the vaccine."

Go deeper: Axios Re:Cap interviewed Moderna's chief medical officer on its blockbuster vaccine news. Listen here.

Go deeper

Updated 9 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Health: WHO: AstraZeneca vaccine must be evaluated on "more than a press release."
  2. Politics: Supreme Court backs religious groups on New York COVID restrictions.
  3. World: Thailand, Philippines sign deal with AstraZeneca for vaccine.
  4. Economy: Safety nets to disappear in December Black Friday shopping across the U.S., in photosAmazon hires 1,400 workers a day throughout pandemic.
  5. Education: National standardized tests delayed until 2022.
7 hours ago - World

Maximum pressure campaign escalates with Fakhrizadeh killing

Photo: Fars News Agency via AP

The assassination of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the architect of Iran’s military nuclear program, is a new height in the maximum pressure campaign led by the Trump administration and the Netanyahu government against Iran.

Why it matters: It exceeds the capture of the Iranian nuclear archives by the Mossad, and the sabotage in the advanced centrifuge facility in Natanz.

Scoop: Biden weighs retired General Lloyd Austin for Pentagon chief

Lloyd Austin testifying before Congress in 2015. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Joe Biden is considering retired four-star General Lloyd Austin as his nominee for defense secretary, adding him to a shortlist that includes Jeh Johnson, Tammy Duckworth and Michele Flournoy, two sources with direct knowledge of the decision-making tell Axios.

Why it matters: A nominee for Pentagon chief was noticeably absent when the president-elect rolled out his national security team Tuesday. Flournoy had been widely seen as the likely pick, but Axios is told other factors — race, experience, Biden's comfort level — have come into play.