The Moderna vaccine is 94.5% effective against coronavirus, according to early data released Monday by the company, making it the second vaccine in the U.S. to have a high success rate.

"These are obviously very exciting results," Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease doctor, told NBC News. "It's just as good as it gets... 94.5% is truly outstanding."

Moderna heard its results on a conference call Sunday afternoon with members of the Data Safety and Monitoring Board. The news comes after Pfizer and partner BioNTech announced last week that its candidate vaccine's reported a similar Phase 3 success rate.

Vaccinations could begin in the second half of December, Fauci said. Inoculations are expected to begin with high-risk groups and to be available for the rest of the population next spring.

In Moderna's trial, 15,000 study participants were given a placebo, which is a shot of saline that has no effect. Over several months, 90% of them developed COVID-19, with 11 developing severe forms of the disease. Another 15,000 participants were given the vaccine, and only five of them developed COVID-19. None of the five became severely ill.

Moderna says its vaccine did not have any serious side effects. A small percentage of those who received it experienced symptoms such as body aches and headaches.

Moderna plans to apply to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for authorization of its vaccine soon after it accumulates more safety data later this month.

Fauci says he expects the first COVID-19 vaccinations to begin "towards the latter part of December, rather than the early part of December."

Initially, there won't be enough vaccine for everyone. The highest priority groups, which include health care workers, the elderly, and people with underlying medical conditions, will get the vaccine first.

"I think that everybody else will start to get vaccinated towards the end of April," Fauci said. "And that will go into May, June, July. It will take a couple of months to do."

Dr. Scott Gottlieb told CNBC on Monday that the pandemic could “effectively” be ended next year.

“If these full data sets hold, when the full data comes out, we may have two highly effective vaccines against COVID,” Gottlieb, a board member of Pfizer, said on “Squawk Box.”

“Once we get these vaccines in sufficient qualities heading in 2021, the combination of the fact that a lot of the population will have already had COVID, combined with the fact that we’ll be vaccinating the public with a highly effective vaccine, we could effectively end this pandemic in 2021 with our technology,” Gottlieb added.

A volunteer is tested before being given the Moderna vaccine in Detroit, Michigan
A volunteer is tested before being given the Moderna vaccine in Detroit, Michigan AFP / -