A third coronavirus vaccine has been approved for use in the UK by the independent medicines regulator, the Government announced on Friday morning.
The Moderna jab has been shown to be 94 per cent effective in preventing disease, including in the elderly, during trials, and has passed the regulators’ safety and quality tests.
Ministers have ordered an additional 10 million doses of the vaccine, building on an initial pre-order of seven million doses.
Supplies will be delivered to the UK “from spring” – a window between March 20 and June 21 – once US firm Moderna has expanded its production capacity.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) accepted the recommendation of the Commission on Human Medicines to authorise the jab. It followed months of clinical trials that involved tens of thousands of people and an extensive analysis of the vaccine’s safety, quality and effectiveness.
Where is the Moderna vaccine made?
The American biotechnology company behind the vaccine has said trial results indicate that the jab is generally well tolerated and has given rise to no serious safety concerns.
No person who has been vaccinated with the jab, known as mRNA-1273, has developed severe coronavirus.
Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, welcomed the approval of the Moderna vaccine as “another weapon in our arsenal to tame this awful disease”.
The development comes after the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was approved on December 2, with the first doses administered on December 8, and the Oxford University-AstraZeneca jab was given the green light on December 30 and rolled out from January 4.
Almost 1.5 million people have been vaccinated in the UK so far, with the pace of the rollout set to pick up in the coming weeks. Boris Johnson has vowed that “hundreds of thousands” of jabs will be delivered daily from next Friday.
Mr Hancock said Moderna’s vaccine “will boost our vaccination programme even further once doses become available”.
The joint committee on vaccination and immunisation (JCVI) will submit updated advice on which groups to prioritise for vaccination before doses become available.
Alok Sharma, the Business Secretary, hailed the news as “yet another important step towards ending lockdown and returning to normal life”. He highlighted that Britain was one of the first countries in Europe to sign a deal with Moderna and paid tribute to the scientists, trial volunteers, regulators and medics involved in the process.
Is it different to the Pfizer and Oxford vaccines?
The Moderna jab works in a similar way to the Pfizer vaccine, targeting the “spike proteins” that coronavirus uses to enter human cells.
Both jabs use synthetic messenger RNA (mRNA), genetic material that contains information about the spike protein to instruct the body to produce a small amount of this protein. In this way, it stimulates the immune system to produce a protective antibody response.
However, unlike the Pfizer jab the Moderna vaccine does not require ultra-cold storage and can remain stable at normal fridge temperature for 30 days.
How will it be rolled out in the UK?
The vaccine will be rolled out through the same channels via which the Pfizer and Oxford vaccines are being delivered.
Everyone in the country will be within a 10-mile radius of an available vaccine, Mr Johnson pledged on Thursday night, amid growing fears over a postcode lottery.
Nadine Zahawi, the vaccine deployment minister, 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 Vaccines Taskforce has ordered 367 million doses of seven vaccines so far. The Government has invested £230 million into manufacturing a successful jab and has made more than £6 billion available to develop and procure effective vaccines.
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, the deputy chief medical officer for England, said the new vaccine would save lives once doses come on stream but warned: “It is crucial we all continue to follow the rules to protect each other until enough people have been protected.”