By Tirion Davies | Editor-in-Chief
A vaccine by US company Moderna becomes the third to be approved for use in the UK.
The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was the first to gain approval by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Authority (MRHA) on December 3, 2020. The second vaccine to gain approval was the Oxford University-AstraZeneca vaccine, which gained approval on December 30.
It was announced the UK has ordered an additional 10 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, making the total order 17 million. The doses, however, are not expected to arrive in the UK until spring.
What do we know about the Moderna vaccine?
The Moderna vaccine, an RNA vaccine similar to the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, injects part of the virus’ genetic code so that the immune system will provoke a response.
Similar to the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, the Moderna vaccine requires temperatures of around -20C for shipping – similar to the temperature of a freezer; the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine requires regular fridge temperature for shipping.
The Oxford-AstraZeneca and Moderna vaccines are easier to transport and distribute than the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, which requires temperatures closer to -75C.
All three vaccines require a second booster shot after the initial dose, but with more vaccines approved for use in the UK, there is more opportunity to administer the first dose to a higher number of people.
It is reported that the UK has ordered 367 million doses of vaccines to protect against the spread of COVID-19.
What about the new variations?
It was reported on January 8 that a new study has suggested the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine is highly effective against the key variant mutation of COVID-19.
A new variant has been said to have caused a rise in positive test rates across the UK, as a variant which has been noted as being more contagious.
The University of Texas, who initiated the study, focused on a mutation called N501Y, which has emerged in both the variant found in the UK, in addition to the second variant found in South Africa.
The study suggests that this mutation is in the part of the virus which first makes contact with our body’s cells, suggesting that vaccines such as the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine could have the potential to change those cells and reduce the risk of infection.
Despite this, many are calling for further research to determine how successful these vaccines are in halting the new variations.
Professor Stephen Evans, from the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, stated, as reported by the BBC,
“Yes this is good news, but it does not yet give us total confidence that the Pfizer (or other) vaccines will definitely give protection”.
Mass vaccination began in December across the UK, with over 1.5 million across Britain already vaccinated, including 1.6% of the Welsh population.
Vaccines are given to the most vulnerable, to begin with, including those over 80 and care home residents. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has stated they wish to see 15 million people across the UK vaccinated by mid-February, including frontline NHS staff, care home residents and staff, and those over 70 who are clinically extremely vulnerable.
With more doses of the Moderna vaccine ordered by the UK Government, there is hope the additional vaccines will allow for more people to be immunised as soon as possible.