Britain approves Moderna’s Covid vaccine – but won’t get any doses until MARCH at the earliest
Britain today approved Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine – but won’t be able to get any of the 17million doses it has bought until March at the earliest.
Moderna’s Covid jab is the third to be given the green light for use in the UK, joining vaccines made by Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford University/AstraZeneca.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘This is further great news and another weapon in our arsenal to tame this awful disease.’ Business Secretary Alok Sharma described it as ‘another huge step towards ending lockdown’.
The EU – which approved the same vaccine two days ago – will get supplies of the jab from next week after they struck a deal to buy it last summer.
HOW DOES MODERNA’S VACCINE WORK?
Moderna’s vaccine works in the same way as Pfizer and BioNTech’s, and are types called mRNA vaccines.
They use genetic material called RNA from the coronavirus to trick the body into making the ‘spike’ proteins that the virus uses to latch onto cells inside the body.
These cells then look like the real virus to the immune system, so it attacks them as it would if someone was infected with Covid. It uses antibodies and T cells to attack these modified cells.
In the process it also creates its own memory of exactly how to destroy anything with the spikes on – i.e. the real coronavirus – in case it encounters them in the future.
Moderna found in trials that its vaccine, which is given in two doses, was ‘generally safe and well tolerated’.
It said the majority of side effects were mild or moderate. The most common ‘severe’ effects were pain at the site, muscles or joints; fatigue and headache. These, the company said, were ‘generally short-lived’.
Moderna said its vaccine can be stored in a normal fridge for up to a month before it is given out, meaning it will be cheaper to store and distribute.
Although it must be shipped at -20°C (-4°F), this is not too cold for normal freezers to handle.
Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccine, however, needed to be kept at -70°C (-94°F) at all times until it was about to be used, meaning expensive specialist equipment is needed to transport and store it.
Mr Hancock added: ‘We have already vaccinated nearly 1.5million 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.’
MHRA chief executive Dr June Raine said: ‘Today’s approval brings more encouraging news to the public and the healthcare sector.
‘Having a third Covid vaccine approved for supply following a robust and thorough assessment of all the available data is an important goal to have achieved and I am proud that the agency has helped to make this a reality.
‘The progress we are now making for vaccines on the regulatory front, whilst not cutting any corners, is helping in our global fight against this disease and ultimately helping to save lives. I want to echo that our goal is always to put the protection of the public first.
‘Once in use, all COVID-19 vaccines are continually monitored by the MHRA. This ensures that the benefits in protecting people against COVID-19 continue to far outweigh any potential side-effects.
‘Meantime, even if you have had a vaccine it is vital that everyone follows the national lockdown restrictions and remembers ‘stay alert, protect the NHS and save lives’ at all times.’
Professor Sir Munir Pirmohamed, chair of the Expert Working Group of the Independent Commission on Human Medicines said: ‘We are delighted to be able to give a positive recommendation for the Moderna vaccine which will help in the roll-out of the Covid vaccination programme.
‘As with all the Covid vaccine data we have seen to date, we have ensured a robust and thorough safety assessment has been carried out with the independent experts that sit on this group.’