Ministers "Expect" First Moderna Covid-19 Jabs To Arrive In The UK Next Month
The government is preparing for the UK’s first batch of Moderna vaccines to arrive next month, confirmed Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, who said ministers had “every confidence” that the current lockdown would be the last.
Dowden told both the BBC and Sky News on Sunday that the government expected doctors to begin administering the Moderna jab, of which the UK has ordered 17 million doses, in April.
The vaccine displayed 94% efficacy against the coronavirus in trials and was the third jab to receive regulatory approval in the UK after those produced by AstraZeneca and Pfizer.
Over half a million doses of it are set to arrive in the next three weeks, The Mail On Sunday reported.
It will come as a boost to the government as it continues to reassure people that the fall in vaccine supply expected next month will not impact the roadmap for lifting lockdown restrictions.
In other developments:
- Labour leader Keir Starmer is reportedly set to replace Shadow Chancellor Anneliese Dodds in a shake-up of his frontbench after the local elections in May.
- A second MP has defected from the SNP to Alex Salmond's new pro-independence party, Alba.
- Whitehall has reportedly launched a major investigation into widespread allegations of sexual assault at educational settings, including many of the country's private schools.
Asked by Sky’s Sophy Ridge why the public should be confident that the vaccine rollout remained on track, Dowden said: “I wouldn’t say take us on trust – I’d say take us on our record.
“We said the most vulnerable groups people would get their vaccines by the middle of February and they got it by the middle of February.
“We said over 50s and the most vulnerable would get it by the middle of April. We’ll deliver on that.
“We’ve also said there’ll be ups and downs with the vaccine and we’re not going to give a running commentary on the supply and I have also indicated, as the health secretary [Matt Hancock] has said, we do expect Moderna to come later this month.
“People should take reassurance in that we have delivered what we have promised so far and that we will continue to do so”.
In an interview with Andrew Marr, Dowden admitted the roadmap for lifting restrictions “could be delayed if the situation deteriorates” but stressed “at the moment, we are on track”.
People in England will be able to meet outdoors as two households, or in up to groups of six from tomorrow and organised sport will be allowed to resume. Non-essential shops and outdoor hospitality are set to reopen on 12 April.
The minister added that while the government could not absolutely guarantee the current lockdown would be the last, it had “every confidence that we won’t have to have another lockdown”.Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford also told Marr he could not promise that the lockdown in Wales would definitely be last.
“I’m afraid I don’t think anybody responsible in my position will be able to do that any time soon,” he said.
“Of course we hope it won’t be but we see what’s happening on the continent of Europe and we know about the new variants being discovered around the globe.
“There’s a job of work to be done to make sure that the coronavirus is genuinely in the rear-view mirror”.
Professor Mark Woolhouse of the University of Edinburgh told Marr he was “pretty nervous” about the prospect of all restrictions being lifted on 21 June, as laid out in the government’s roadmap.
The impact of the vaccine so far on the virus had been “very encouraging,” he said, and “if they go on at this rate, we can get somewhere close to a full release [by June 21]”.
“But the idea that we can suddenly emerge from this in one great bound I think is a little over optimistic”.
However, the government advisor said signs of the vaccine’s “excellent” performance led him to be “pretty optimistic” that small outbreaks in the future would not translate to high levels of hospitalisations and deaths.
Some measures for combatting the virus, like the use of Personal Protect Equipment, would probably have to remain in place for years to come, Professor Woolhouse said.
"I still suspect that looking forward – and I am talking right through 2021 into the years ahead – that we are still going to have to be alert to coronavirus.
"There are still going to be situations where we might need to use PPE, we might well need to do some kind of social distancing and put some of biosecurity measures in place".