Moderna COVID jab will be rolled out in UK 'in next few weeks', says vaccines minister

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·4 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
March 28, 2021: Vials of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine await use during a mass COVID-19 vaccination event held by the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB Health) at Brazosport College in Lake Jackson, Texas. (Photo by Prentice C. James/CSM/Sipa USA)
The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine will be available in the UK within weeks, the government has said. (Getty)

The Moderna COVID-19 vaccine will be rolled out in the UK within the next few weeks, the governmment has said.

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said on Tuesday the UK’s third coronavirus vaccine, following those from Pfizer and AstraZeneca, will be available sometime in the middle of this month.

He told BBC Breakfast: “It will be in deployment around the third week of April in the NHS and we will get more volume in May as well.”

Zahawi said he is “confident” the government will be able to meet its pledges of offering a vaccine to all over-50s by the middle of April and all adults by the end of July.

The government said last month that the Moderna vaccine would be ready in April, after it was originally approved for use in January.

Meanwhile, health secretary Matt Hancock announced on Tuesday that the Valneva COVID-19 vaccine, which is set to be manufactured in the UK, produces a “strong immune response”.

More than 31.5 million people have had the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccination, and 5.4 million have had a second jab, according to government figures.

Zahawi also said that controversial COVID passports - which could let hospitality venues know if a person has been vaccinated - will not be introduced in the next two phases of lockdown easing on 12 April and 17 May.

Watch: Vaccines minister says COVID passports 'not required' in April or May

The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is examining potential links between the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine and blood clots, amid reports it is considering proposals to restrict the use of the jab in younger people.

The government has secured a total of 457 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, of which 100 million are from AstraZeneca.

Zahawi said the MHRA looks “very closely” at reports of adverse reactions to the vaccines.

The agency has said it identified 30 cases of rare blood clot events out of 18.1 million doses of the jab administered up to and including 24 March.

There have been seven deaths among the 30 cases.

But the regulator said the benefits of the vaccine in preventing coronavirus outweigh any risks and it urged the public to continue coming forward for the jab.

Zahawi said: “The regulators absolutely look at, very closely, any adverse incidents through the yellow card system.

“To put it in perspective, we have done almost 20 million vaccinations using the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

“Both vaccines have saved something like 6,300 lives between December and the end of February, so it’s important to continue to follow what the clinicians, the scientists, the regulators tell us. And we will absolutely do exactly as they say.”

Channel 4 News reported the MHRA was considering proposals to restrict the use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in younger people and a decision could be made imminently.

MHRA chief executive Dr June Raine said: “People should continue to get their vaccine when invited to do so.

“Our thorough and detailed review is ongoing into reports of very rare and specific types of blood clots with low platelets following the COVID-19 vaccine AstraZeneca.

“No decision has yet been made on any regulatory action.”

The 30 cases in the UK include 22 reports of cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) and eight of other thrombosis events with low platelets. CVST clots stop blood draining from the brain properly.

But it is not known whether these cases have occurred as a result of the jab, or whether they would have happened naturally in the population anyway.

A number of countries have imposed restrictions on the use of the jab in younger adults.

But the head of the European Medicines Agency (EMA) has said there is “no evidence” to support restricting the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine in any population.

The view is echoed by the World Health Organization (WHO), which has urged countries to continue using the jab.

The Valneva vaccine was said to be safe and generally well tolerated after an early-stage phase one/two study involving 153 people, paving the way for a phase three clinical trial.

The company said the results showed the vaccine was “highly immunogenic with more than 90% of all study participants developing significant levels of antibodies” to the COVID virus spike protein.

The vaccine also induced T-cell responses, which help the body fend off a virus and play a role in long-lasting immunity.

Hancock said: “The UK government has funded these clinical trials and it is fantastic to see Valneva’s vaccine produces a strong immune response.

“This vaccine will be made onshore in Livingston in Scotland, giving another boost to British life science, and if approved will play an important role in protecting our communities.”

Boris Johnson tweeted: "Very promising news that the @ValnevaSE vaccine shows a strong immune response and will progress to Phase 3 trials.  

"If it is successful and meets our robust safety standards this vaccine will be manufactured in Scotland, providing a crucial weapon in our battle against COVID."

Watch: Moderna COVID vaccine 'adds another string to our bow'