Covid: Moderna vaccine given approval for use in UK

  • Video report by ITV News Political Correspondent Libby Wiener

US-based firm Moderna has seen its coronavirus vaccine approved for use in the UK.

It becomes the third jab to be approved for use, after the Pfizer/BioNTech and the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

The government has ordered 17 million doses of the vaccine, however supplies will not be delivered until the Spring.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) gave Moderna's jab the green light on Friday afternoon.

Health 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. "

Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: “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."

What do we know about the Moderna vaccine?

The US company said its Covid vaccine offers high levels of protection and trials have shown no serious safety concerns.

The phase three results suggest vaccine efficacy against the disease was 94.1%, and vaccine efficacy against severe Covid-19 was 100%.

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

Two doses were given 28 days apart so researchers could evaluate safety and any reaction to the vaccine.

The analysis was based on 196 cases, of which 185 cases of Covid-19 were observed in the placebo group versus 11 cases observed in the active vaccine group.

Moderna also released data relating to severe cases.

All 30 severe cases occurred in the placebo group and none in the group which had received the vaccine, known currently as mRNA-1273.

How does the vaccine work?

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

Conventional vaccines are produced using weakened forms of the virus but mRNAs use only the virus’s genetic code.

Despite its approval, the vaccine will not arrive in the UK until the Spring. Credit: AP

An mRNA vaccine is injected into the body, where it enters cells and tells them to create antigen.

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 will this help the UK's vaccination programme?

Nearly 1.5 million people in the UK have already been vaccinated with either the Oxford or Pfizer jab.

More than 1,000 vaccine sites are set to be set up next week to increase the rollout of the vaccination programme.

The approval of the Moderna vaccine means the newly-approved jab can be distributed through hospital hubs, local community centres and also the mass vaccination centres across the country.

The vaccine will be available for free will be distributed across the UK.