The UK’s medicines regulatory body has authorised the Moderna vaccine for emergency use, the company has announced, in a major boost to the nation’s vaccination efforts.
The US-made drug becomes the third coronavirus vaccine granted approval for use by the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) in Britain, as ministers ramp up plans to vaccinate more than 13m people by mid-February.
The government has ordered an additional 10m doses of the jab, taking the UK’s total order to 17m.
The drug proved 94 per cent effective in protecting against coronavirus in clinical trials.
The vaccine’s approval comes as an unexpected boost for the country’s ambitious vaccination programme, with the jab previously anticipated to be delivered much later this year.
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-19 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 US granted emergency authorisation for the Moderna vaccine in mid-December, with the EU following suit yesterday.
The government has spread orders across seven potential vaccines that use a variety of methods, stressing that vaccination across the population will not be achieved by a “one size fits all method”.
Around 1.5m people have already received at least one dose of either the Astrazeneca or Pfizer vaccine, including almost a quarter of all over-80s in England.
However, the Moderna vaccine will not be available for use straight away, with the first doses not expected to arrive until the spring.
The Prime Minister earlier this week said wide scale vaccine roll-out would require the combined efforts of the NHS and the Armed Forces as the government works “absolutely flat out” to vaccinate the nation before lockdown restrictions are lifted.
Professor Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer, said that the vaccine timetable was “realistic but not easy”.
“The NHS is going to have to use multiple channels to get this out, but they are very determined to do this. But that does not make it easy,” he said.
Nadhim Zahawi, the UK’s vaccine tsar yesterday announced that community pharmacy networks will be “very much involved” in plans to vaccinate the most vulnerable members of the population over the next seven weeks.
Current government plans will see vaccines given to GPs to be rolled out to the public, then national vaccination centres, and then distributed across local pharmacies, Zahawi announced.
“The NHS has a very clear plan and I’m confident that we can meet it,” he said, adding that it would require a “Herculean effort” to roll out the jab by mid-February.