13/04/2021 09:27 BST

Moderna Vaccine Rolled Out In England As Next Phase Begins

People aged over 45 can now book their jabs on the NHS website.

GEOFF CADDICK via Getty Images
Nurse Lisa Kieh holds a vial of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine at a vaccination centre in Llanelli, South Wales

The Moderna vaccine has become the third coronavirus jab rolled out in England in what has been dubbed another “milestone” in the fight against the pandemic. 

It will be initially be available at 21 sites, including the Madejski Stadium in Reading and the Sheffield Arena, with more sites used in the future as further supplies arrive.

Prof Stephen Powis, medical director of NHS England, described the vaccine as “a third jab in our armoury”.

“The Moderna rollout marks another milestone in the vaccination programme,” he said. “England’s vaccination programme is our hope at the end of a year like no other, so please do come forward and get your jab when you’re invited.

“It is safe, quick and effective – it will protect you and your loved ones.”

The UK has bought 17m doses – enough for 8.5m people. Wales and Scotland began using the Moderna vaccine last week, and the jab is expected to be delivered to people in Northern Ireland in the coming weeks.

The first person to receive the Moderna jab in the UK was Elle Taylor, 24, an unpaid carer from Carmarthenshire in Wales.

The NHS said the Moderna and Pfizer will be used for under-30s who were due to be given the AstraZeneca jab.

Last week, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation recommended that under-30s be offered an alternative to the AstraZeneca vaccine, amid reports of very rare incidences of blood clotting that may be linked to the jab.

The JCVI said those aged between 18 and 29 should be offered an alternative vaccine – either the Pfizer or the Moderna jabs.

Like the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, the Moderna jab is a mRNA vaccine but is stored at normal freezer temperatures of -20C, compared to -70C for Pfizer. 

As with the other two Covid-19 vaccines used in the UK, the Moderna jab will be given as two injections, ideally spaced 28 days apart. The vaccine will be injected into the muscle of your upper arm.

The Moderna jab has a vaccine efficacy of 94.5%, meaning it should protect against around nine in 10 cases of Covid-19. In comparison, the Pfizer vaccine’s effectiveness was at least 97% in preventing symptomatic disease, severe/critical disease and death, while the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine has been found to be 76% effective at preventing the virus.

The news comes as the government confirmed it had met its target of offering the first dose of the Covid jab to all adults aged over 50 three days ahead of schedule.

The vaccine has been offered to all top nine priority groups, including the clinically vulnerable and health and social care workers, ahead of the April 15 target date. 

People over 45 are now being invited to book a vaccine on the NHS England website, marking the start of Phase 2 of the vaccination programme  – which involves offering vaccines to healthy adults under the age of 50. The website crashed briefly on Tuesday morning due to demand. 

The JCVI will shortly set out its final advice for the completion of the programme.