The approval of the Moderna COVID vaccine in the UK comes 2 days after Europe, but not a moment too soon – the death toll continues to climb, standing at 78,508 currently
The UK Government has ordered seven million doses of the Moderna vaccine, with the possibility of another 10 million after this. The vaccine is being manufactured in the US, with limited capacity in the EU. The doses are not expected to become available for UK use until March, 2021.
The Moderna COVID vaccine is different to Pfizer-BioNTech, which was the first to be approved for UK use.
Is the Moderna vaccine better than other vaccines?
The short answer is no. All three approved vaccines in the UK are going to work, even against the B117 strain, which is currently 50% more contagious than the previous mutations. However, this vaccine is definitely better to distribute, as it can handle living in -20 degrees Celsius for six months without being destroyed.
This cure can be stored at a regular temperature, unlike the extreme-cold storage of Pfizer. It is being delivered in smaller batches, which means the vaccine should be able to reach more rural and less populated areas – without the omnipresent fear of vaccine expiry.
When will the vaccine be ready for the UK public?
As of 4 January, 2021, Moderna are pushing to produce 600 million doses this year. They previously said they would be able to produce 500 million, so there is serious capacity building happening at the Massachusetts based company. Moderna said that it is “continuing to invest and add staff to build up to potentially 1 billion doses for 2021.”
Current predictions for UK access are March, 2021.
PM Boris Johnson has a target of vaccinating 15 million highly-vulnerable people by 15 February, 2021. It seems that Moderna will not be able to contribute to this highly ambitious vaccination goal.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said this approval would “allow us to accelerate our vaccination programme even further once doses become available”.
Is the US a priority for Moderna vaccinations?
As a funding recipient of the United States vaccine acceleration programme, Operation Warp Speed, Moderna were given $1 billion to help them design and test their COVID vaccine. The US National Institutes of Health were involved in the clinical trials, and a further $1.5 billion was given for the first 100 million doses – which should be available for the US by the mid-Spring, 2021. Another 200 million doses will be ready for the US in the next quarter of the year.
Currently, Moderna have given the US Government 18 million doses. Canada have also received Moderna vaccines, since they approved the drug on 23 December, 2020.
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