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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

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 - 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.

Updated 18 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Vaccines: Pfizer coronavirus vaccine safe, effective in children, company says — The COVID booster vaccine discussion is far from over — Cuba becomes first country to begin mass vaccination of children.
  2. Health: Chicago has highest COVID-19 case rates in city worker neighborhoods — International Mission Board to require COVID vaccine for missionaries.
  3. Politics: Biden administration to lift travel ban for fully vaccinated international travelers — Footage shows new details after NYC restaurant incident over proof of vaccination.
  4. Education: More schools using "test-to-stay" strategy to minimize quarantines — Most Kentucky school boards vote in favor of mask mandates —Denver looks to students to close Latino vaccination gap.
  5. Variant tracker: Where different strains are spreading.