By Stephanie Stahl

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Pfizer says its COVID-19 vaccine is even better than first reported. Moderna has similar findings. If the vaccines get emergency approval from the FDA, both companies say they’re ready to begin delivery in weeks.

The formula used to develop the vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna comes from the University of Pennsylvania. It’s never been approved for use, and while the companies are claiming impressive results, scientists are waiting to see the actual data.

Pfizer says the final analysis of its Phase 3 trial shows its COVID-19 vaccine is 95% effective in preventing infections. It’s the final data needed to seek emergency use.

“We’re very, very proud and excited to see it coming out of Penn,” Dr. Jonathan Epstein said.

The technology behind the vaccines being developed by Pfizer and Moderna comes from the University of Pennsylvania. Moderna says its vaccine is also 95% effective.

Dr. Drew Weissman pioneered the formula called Messenger RNA.

“It makes a very potent vaccine that stimulates antibody levels that are higher than most other vaccines we’ve studied,” Weissman said.

Here’s how it works. The coronavirus uses a spike protein to attack the cells. The vaccines contain genetic information that prompts the cells to produce harmless versions of that spike protein, triggering an immune response to the virus.

“I think we’re all excited to see the very hopeful news, now not only from Pfizer, but from Moderna on the second MRNA-based vaccine that seems to have remarkable effectiveness, at least in the early data that we’ve been able to see,” Epstein said.

No RNA-based vaccine has ever been approved. The next big hurdle is reviewing the new data. Among those to see it will be Dr. Paul Offit, a vaccine expert from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

“You want to see the evidence first,” Offit said. “That’s fair. I would consider myself a vaccine skeptic. I’m on the FDA’s Vaccine Advisory Committee. I think everybody that sits around that table is a vaccine skeptic. We want to see the data.”

Pfizer says its material will be in front of the FDA in days. Considering the urgency, the agency could review it and make a decision quickly.

Pfizer has plans to produce up to 50 million vaccine doses this year and over a billion next year.

The Moderna vaccine appears to be on a similar path.

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Stephanie Stahl

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