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Photo: Robin Utrecht/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Food and Drug Administration has issued an emergency use authorization (EUA) for Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine, one day after it was endorsed by a panel of independent experts.

Why it matters: The authorization of a second coronavirus vaccine, coming exactly one week after the FDA cleared Pfizer-BioNTech's vaccine for emergency use, increases vaccine access for millions of Americans and marks another milestone on the country’s path to curbing the pandemic.

Between the lines: Moderna's vaccine, which the FDA confirmed is safe and has a 94.1% efficacy rate, does not need to be stored at ultracold temperatures and comes in smaller batches, making it easier to distribute to rural areas than Pfizer's vaccine.

What they're saying: "To have two vaccines against a novel virus authorized and distributed within a year is extraordinary, and to have one of these vaccines developed by scientists at the NIH should be a great source of pride for every member of the HHS family and every American," HHS Secretary Alex Azar said in response to the FDA's authorization.

  • "The DoD, with the work of General Perna and Operation Warp Speed, stands ready to work with our public and private-sector partners to ensure doses reach Americans as soon as possible," Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller said.

What's next: The FDA's decision means that the distribution of roughly 6 million doses of Moderna's vaccine will begin this weekend.

  • The Centers for Disease Control has advised that frontline workers and nursing home patients be the first recipients of available vaccines. Thousands began receiving the first doses of Pfizer's vaccine last week.
  • A CDC committee will decide on Sunday which "priority group" should come next, with "essential workers" like teachers and law enforcement likely to be recommended, according to the New York Times.
  • Governors will then be responsible for determining which people within that group will receive their state's limited supply of vaccines.

The big picture: The authorization of Moderna's vaccine comes one day after a record 3,438 Americans were reported to have died from the virus. It also comes amid confusion and concern after the Trump administration informed state after state that they'll be getting 25%-40% fewer Pfizer vaccine doses next week than they'd been expecting.

What to watch: Operation Warp Speed officials said Johnson & Johnson closed recruitment for its Phase 3 trials — which have enlisted about 44,000 people — on Thursday.

  • The company is expecting results on its one-dose vaccine candidate by early January.

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

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 - 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.