A third Covid-19 vaccine has been approved for use in the UK today (8 January), the Department for Health has announced.
The US Moderna vaccine joins the coronavirus jabs made by Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford AstraZeneca, which have already started to be rolled out across the country.
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Moderna has been approved by the US Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (FDA), clearing the way for millions of doses to be distributed.
The UK government increased its order from seven to 17 million doses of the vaccine, but supplies are not expected to be delivered until the spring. The amount is enough to vaccinate 8.5 million people, who will each receive two doses.
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.
“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.”
How effective is it?
Trials of the two-dose vaccine suggest that it is 94 per cent effective in protecting against Covid-19 and no person who was vaccinated with the jab developed severe coronavirus.
While this efficacy may drop over time, scientists have said the vaccine should protect against around nine in 10 cases of Covid-19.
Trial results also indicate that the vaccine is generally well tolerated with no serious safety concerns.
The vaccine works in a similar way to the jab from Pfizer/BioNTech and requires temperatures of around -20C for shipping, which is similar to a normal freezer. However, it does not require the same ultracold storage as Pfizer’s and can remain stable at normal fridge temperature for 30 days.
Both the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines use synthetic messenger RNA (mRNA), a genetic material that contains information about the spike protein (the part of the virus which enters human cells).
The vaccines provide the body with instructions to produce a small amount of this protein which, once detected by the immune system, leads to a protective antibody response.
Trial data from Moderna also suggests that the jab is highly effective in preventing people getting ill and works across all age groups, including the elderly.
Similarly, the Pfizer and AstraZeneca jabs have both been shown to work effectively in older people.