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Covid-19 vaccine from Moderna approved in UK and available from spring

Moderna’s Covid-19 vaccine has been approved by UK regulators.

The UK has ordered an additional 10 million doses, taking its total to 17 million.

The Moderna vaccine will be available in the UK by spring
The Moderna vaccine will be available in the UK by spring

The vaccine, which will be available in the UK from spring, has been shown to be 94 per cent effective against Covid-19, including in the elderly.

Following the decision to approve the vaccine by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) today (Friday January 8), Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “This is further great news and another weapon in our arsenal to tame this awful disease.

“We have already vaccinated nearly 1.5 million people across the UK and Moderna’s vaccine will allow us to accelerate 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.”

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) will update its advice on which groups to prioritise for vaccination before doses become available.

More than 1,000 vaccination sites are expected to be live this week across the UK as the vaccination programme is scaled up, using the two previously approved vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford University/AstraZeneca.

To date in Cambridgeshire, only the Pfizer/BioNTech jab has been administered.

Vaccine doses ordered by the UK government
Vaccine doses ordered by the UK government

Business secretary Alok Sharma said: “Vaccines are the key to releasing us all from the grip of this pandemic, and today’s news is yet another important step towards ending lockdown and returning to normal life.

“The UK was one of the first countries in Europe to sign a deal with Moderna, and I’m delighted our Vaccine Taskforce has secured an additional 10 million doses of their highly-effective vaccine to protect the British public and save lives.

“From the scientists and trial volunteers to our world-class regulators and clinicians, we are enormously grateful to everyone who has played their part in this national effort to defeat the virus and get our country back on its feet.”

The Moderna vaccine will be deployed, like the other vaccines, through:

  • hospital hubs for NHS and care staff and older patients to get vaccinated;
  • local community services with local teams and GPs already signing up to take part in the programme;
  • vaccination centres across the country, ensuring people can access a vaccine regardless of where they live.

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.”

On Wednesday, the European Medicines Agency recommended the jab be granted conditional marketing authorisation across the European Union.

The Moderna jab is a messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine.

Whereas conventional vaccines are produced using weakened forms of the virus, mRNAs use only the virus’s genetic code.

Once injected, it enters cells and tells them to create antigens. These antigens are recognised by the immune system and prepare it to fight coronavirus.

No actual virus is needed to create an mRNA vaccine. This means the rate at which the vaccine can be produced is accelerated.

How the Modern vaccine works. Graphic: PA
How the Modern vaccine works. Graphic: PA

More than 30,000 people in the US took part in clinical trials of the vaccine, from a wide range of age groups and ethnic backgrounds.

There were 196 cases of Covid-19 among them, with 185 in the placebo group versus 11 cases in the vaccinated group. Two doses were given 28 days apart.

Moderna said the vaccine was generally well tolerated, with no serious safety concerns identified to date.

The UK’s Vaccine Taskforce has secured early access to 367 million doses of seven of the most promising vaccines, with more than £230million invested in manufacturing and more than £6billion made available to develop and procure successful vaccines.

Deputy Chief Medical Officer for England Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said: “The highly effective Moderna vaccine is another impressive success for science and is another testament to the hard work of researchers and selfless clinical trial volunteers.

“This vaccine will save lives once doses become available, but it is crucial we all continue to follow the rules to protect each other until enough people have been protected.”

The Moderna vaccine has been approved. Picture: PA
The Moderna vaccine has been approved. Picture: PA

Clive Dix, interim chair of the government’s Vaccines Taskforce, said: “This is another important milestone in our efforts to end this pandemic, and I would like to thank those in the government’s Vaccine Taskforce who have worked so hard to negotiate agreements with vaccine developers.

“A key objective for the Vaccine Taskforce is to ensure we have a range of vaccines to deliver to the UK population. The addition of the Moderna Vaccine to the UK's portfolio is important to reach that goal.”

Read more

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