Moderna Covid Vaccine Has Been Approved In The UK And Government Has Ordered 10 Million More
A third vaccine against Covid-19 has been approved by the UK’s medical regulator but, no doses will be available until the spring.
The government announced it has increased its order of the Moderna vaccine by another 10 million doses following news it has been cleared for use.
Like the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines, which are already being rolled out after getting the green light from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), it requires two doses to become fully effective.
The Department of Health and Social Care said it is “94% effective in preventing disease, including in the elderly” following months of trials around the world.
After initially agreeing with Moderna to purchase 7 million the UK will now get 17 million doses of their version, enough to vaccinate about 8.5 million people - but as the firm needs to expand its production capability they will only begin to be delivered in the coming months.
It will be distributed in similar ways to the two existing vaccines, including at hospital hubs, GPs and vaccinations centres, although it must be kept at -20C to maintain integrity.
In response to the MHRA announcement the health secretary Matt Hancock said: “This is fantastic news and another weapon in our arsenal to tame this awful disease.
“Through our vaccine delivery plan we have already vaccinated nearly 1.5 million people across the UK. The Moderna vaccine will boost our vaccination programme even further once doses become available from the spring.
“While we immunise those most at risk from Covid, I urge everyone to continue following the rules to keep cases low to protect our loved ones.”
So far around 1.5 million people in the UK have already been vaccinated, with more than 1,000 vaccination sites live by the end of this week, and seven mass vaccination centres due to open next week.
But the government has set a target of inoculating almost 13 million people by the middle of February, which will require a significant ramping up of the rollout.
The vaccine deployment minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “The NHS is pulling out all the stops to vaccinate those most at risk as quickly as possible, with over 1,000 vaccination sites live across the UK by the end of the week to provide easy access to everyone, regardless of where they live.
“The Moderna vaccine will be a vital boost to these efforts and will help us return to normal faster.”
The extra 10 million doses purchased from Moderna means the UK has a total of 367 million from seven separate vaccine candidates.
And new research from Pfizer suggest their version will give protection against the two mutant versions of coronavirus which have been blamed for the rapid increase in cases.
The pharmaceutical giant and researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch carried out lab tests on the new more virulent strains, one of which was discovered in Kent, while the other originated in South Africa.
But the study is yet to be peer reviewed, and scientists gave it a cautious welcome saying further research was needed.
Stephen Evans, professor of pharmacoepidemiology at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, said: "This is good news, mainly because it is not bad news.
"Had the opposite result been found, that the vaccine did not seem to have efficacy against the variation of the virus studied, that would have been bad and very concerning.
"So, yes this is good news, but it does not yet give us total confidence that the Pfizer (or other) vaccines will definitely give protection.
"We need to test this in clinical experience and the data on this should be available in the UK within the next few weeks."