Moderna vaccine not available for UK until Spring as government scrambles to get doses
Moderna says the vaccine is 94.5 per cent effective (Image: REUTERS)
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A breakthrough coronavirus vaccine is not expected to be available for the UK until Spring 2021 at the earliest.
The US-based Moderna vaccine has been shown to prevent 94.5% of people from getting Covid-19 in trials.
But unlike the first breakthrough vaccine from Pfizer, of which the UK has ordered enough doses for 20million people, Moderna is not one of six vaccines pre-ordered by the UK government.
And unlike the Pfizer vaccine, which could be given from December 1 at the very earliest, the Moderna vaccine is not expected to be ready by Spring or later in the UK.
The UK government is now in "advanced discussions" with Moderna to access the vaccine, but it is not known if the cost will end up being higher for later buyers.
The UK government is now in "advanced discussions" with Moderna to access the vaccine
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A government spokesman said: "Moderna are currently scaling up their European supply chain which means these doses would become available in spring 2021 in the UK at the earliest."
Neither the Moderna nor the Pfizer vaccine have passed final regulator approval – but they have different timetables.
The Pfizer vaccine, if approved by regulators, will be rolled out sooner but the government still hasn't promised a launch date.
Boris Johnson today said he "hoped" the NHS will "be able to start distributing to those who need it, perhaps even before Christmas."
But Health Secretary Matt Hancock warned the “vast bulk” of any rollout of the Pfizer jab would only be in the new year.
Mr Hancock told BBC Breakfast: “Of course we’ll be ready to roll it out as soon as it comes.
“We’ll be ready from December 1, but that’s the earliest it could possibly come. Everything would have to go right for that to happen.
“More likely is that we may be able to start rolling it out before Christmas.
"But almost certainly the vast bulk of the rollout – if the safety data proved that it’s safe, and that is still not known, we still don’t have a vaccine – but even if we do, it’s likely that the bulk of the rollout would be in the new year.
“Obviously we’re doing all we can and the NHS is working incredibly hard to be ready for the best-case scenario if that comes off.”
Interim data from the US firm Moderna suggests its vaccine is highly effective in preventing people getting ill and also works across all age groups, including the elderly.
Scientists said the news bodes well for other Covid-19 vaccines, with the one for Oxford University and UK pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca due to report in the coming days or weeks.
Moderna intends to submit an application for an Emergency Use Authorisation with the US Food and Drug Administration shortly and will submit further data on the vaccine's effectiveness and safety.
The firm's final-stage clinical trial is ongoing and includes more than 30,000 people in the US.
The interim analysis included 95 participants with confirmed cases of Covid-19, of which 90 had received the placebo and five the active vaccine.
A government spokesman added: “The news from Moderna appears to be good and represents another significant step towards finding an effective COVID19 vaccine. As part of the ongoing work of the Vaccines Taskforce, the Government is in advanced discussions with Moderna to ensure UK access to their vaccine as part of the wider UK portfolio.
“To date, the UK government has secured early access to 350 million vaccines doses through agreements with six separate vaccine developers. This includes 40m doses of Pfizer/BioNTech’s vaccine, which is based on the same platform as Moderna’s vaccine and if approved by the medicines regulator, is expected to begin delivery as early as December 2020.”