Third coronavirus vaccine given approval for use in UK - with 10 million doses ordered

Screengrab taken from undated video issued by Moderna of a scientist working on the Moderna coronavi

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency has approved the Moderna coronavirus vaccine, the Department for Health has announced. - Credit: PA

The Moderna vaccine has become the third coronavirus jab to be approved for use in the UK - with an additional 10 million doses ordered.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has accepted the recommendation of the Commission on Human Medicines and authorised the Moderna vaccine following months of rigorous clinical trials involving tens of thousands of people and an extensive analysis of the vaccine’s safety, quality and effectiveness.

The US-based company's vaccine is 94% effective in preventing disease, including in the elderly, and the UK government was one of the first to sign an agreement with the company to supply the vaccine. It is also found to have 100% efficacy against severe Covid-19.

News about the jab, which is now the third to be given the green light in the UK, was welcomed by the Health Secretary Matt Hancock, 

“This is further great news and another weapon in our arsenal to tame this awful disease," he said. 

“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.”

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Here's what we know about the Moderna vaccine:

  • 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.

When will we get the vaccine here in the UK?

The Government has bought an extra 10 million doses on top of the original deal for seven million doses of the jab, which will be enough to vaccinate about 8.5 million people.

The Department for Health said doses will start being delivered in the spring once Moderna expands its production capability.

How does it 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.

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

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 safe is the vaccine?
Moderna said the vaccine was generally well tolerated, with no serious safety concerns identified to date.

Severe events after the first dose included injection-site pain, and after the second dose included fatigue, myalgia (muscle pain), arthralgia (joint pain), headache, other pain and redness at the injection site.

But these were generally short-lived.