Moderna vaccine approved for use in the UK

Britain expects first vials of US-manufactured drug to arrive in spring

FILE PHOTO: Vials with a sticker reading, "COVID-19 / Coronavirus vaccine / Injection only" and a medical syringe are seen in front of a displayed Moderna logo in this illustration taken October 31, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo

The Moderna vaccine is the third Covid-19 vaccine to be approved by the UK but it will not arrive until spring.

The country ordered 17 million doses of the US-developed drug that showed 94 per cent effectiveness at preventing coronavirus during clinical trials. It works in a similar way to the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine using mRNA technology.

The department of health said its delivery is delayed because Moderna needs to ramp up production.

The approval comes after the European Union gave the vaccine the green light on Wednesday.

UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: "This is further great news and another weapon in our arsenal to tame this awful disease."

About 1.5 million people have been vaccinated against coronavirus in the UK using the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford University/AstraZeneca products. The government has set itself the goal of vaccinating 14 million people by mid-February.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged at least 200,000 people a day would be inoculated by Friday, January 15.

Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said: "The NHS is pulling out all the stops to vaccinate those most at risk as quickly as possible, with over 1,000 vaccination sites live across the UK by the end of the week to provide easy access to everyone, regardless of where they live."

The Moderna vaccine has been approved for use in the US, Canada, the EU and now the UK.

US president-elect Joe Biden and vice president-elect Kamala Harris both received an injection of the shot on live television to reassure the public over its safety.

How does the Moderna vaccine compare to others? 

The Moderna vaccine works by injecting a small part of the Covid-19 virus genetic code into the body. The code instructs the body's cells to make a protein to trigger an immune response and create antibodies.

Traditional vaccines, including the Oxford/AstraZeneca drug, inject a weakened or inactivated part of a virus into the body.

The Moderna vaccine requires temperatures of around minus 20°C for shipping, similar to a home freezer, unlike the Pfizer/BioNTech drug which needs A Belgian minister in December said the Moderna vaccine costs $18 per dose.