The UK has secured an initial agreement for five million doses of a coronavirus vaccine which has been found to be more than 94% effective at preventing the disease, the health secretary has announced.
Matt Hancock stressed that the vaccine developed by Moderna would not be available in the UK until spring but that the government had today reached an early deal with the US biotechnology firm.
It is understood the vaccine requires two doses, similar to the Pfizer jab, meaning five million doses would inoculate 2.5m people.
The government had been facing questions about why it had not secured doses in advance of Moderna’s announcement on Monday.
Announcing the new deal struck later on Monday, Hancock said: “Across diagnostics and vaccines great advances in medical science are coming to the rescue and while there is much uncertainty we can see the candle of hope and we must do all that we can to nurture its flame.
“But we are not there yet. Until the science can make us safe we must remain vigilant and keep following the rules that we know can keep this virus under control.”
The UK had already struck deals for 350m doses of prospective vaccines from several separate developers at various trial stages, including:
• 100m doses of University of Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine – phase 3 clinical trials
• 40m doses of BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine (found to be 90% effective) – phase 3 clinical trials
• 60m doses of Novavax vaccine – phase 3 clinical trials
• 60m doses of Valneva vaccine – pre-clinical trials
• 60m doses of GSK/Sanofi Pasteur vaccine – phase 1 clinical trials
• 30m doses of Janssen vaccine – phase 2 clinical trials
Business secretary Alok Sharma said he was “delighted” about the deal for five million Moderna jabs.
England’s deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van-Tam said the Moderna results were “brilliant news”.
Van-Tam told the press conference: “Do I feel more encouraged in relation to another messenger RNA vaccine showing that it is making Covid-19 potentially, in the future, a vaccine preventable disease? Absolutely so.
“It’s brilliant news, absolutely brilliant.”
Van-Tam had compared the Pfizer vaccine trial results to a goal in a penalty shoot-out and he continued the comparison following the Moderna data.
“It’s the second penalty now, that’s also gone into the back of the net.
“So we’re starting to feel in a better position.”
He added: “Pretty much all the vaccines around the world that are in development are coronavirus spike protein as the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine has done, as the Moderna vaccine has done.
“This really does begin to show us that the spike protein is a completely plausible and effective target for vaccines to work against.
“When we started this journey in February-March we didn’t even know that. We are feeling in a happier place.”