The Moderna vaccine has become the third jab rolled out in England in what has been dubbed another “milestone” in the fight against the pandemic.
Wales and Scotland began using the Moderna vaccine in early April. The first person to receive the Moderna jab in the UK was Elle Taylor, 24, an unpaid carer from Carmarthenshire in Wales.
The vaccine has been rolled out in England this week and is expected to be delivered to people in Northern Ireland in the coming weeks.
The UK government has high hopes of offering everyone over the age of 18 a first dose of the jab by the end of July. Here’s what you need to know about the newest Covid-busting jab on the block.
How it works
Like the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, the Moderna jab is a mRNA vaccine.
The virus that causes Covid-19 – known as SARS-CoV-2 – contains a spike protein that it uses to enter human cells. The Moderna vaccine uses synthetic messenger RNA (mRNA), a genetic material that contains information about the spike protein.
This synthetic messenger provides the body with instructions to produce a tiny piece of this protein, which your body recognises if it’s ever exposed to it again. It’s a bit like injecting an instruction manual, so that your body – specifically your immune system – knows what to do when you come into contact with the real deal.
Such vaccines don’t use the live virus that causes Covid-19, so they can’t give you Covid just by having them. There have also been concerns they might alter DNA in some way, but this is not true nor possible, say scientists – mRNA doesn’t enter the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA (genetic material) is kept, explains the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
The cell breaks down and gets rid of the mRNA soon after it’s finished using the instructions to build the bit of protein.
What’s the dosing?
Like 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.
During and after each injection of the vaccine, you will be monitored for 15 minutes for signs of an allergic reaction. This is standard procedure with these vaccines.
How effective is the jab?
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.
There’s some concern existing coronavirus jabs might not work as well against new variants of the virus, such as the Brazil and South Africa variants. Moderna has been working on a new vaccine to target the latter, which is currently spreading in south London. Initial studies in mice have found they produced antibodies to fight against the B.1.351 variant, the Times reported.
What are the side effects?
Like all vaccines, you can experience side effects after having the Moderna jab. The most common ones are:
- Tenderness and swelling of the underarm glands on the same side as the injection site
- Muscle ache, joint aches, and stiffness
- Pain or swelling at the injection site
- Feeling very tired
Most side effects go away within a few days and people are encouraged to take paracetamol to manage any aches or pains.
In rare instances, it’s possible to experience a severe allergic reaction to the jab. Signs of which include itchy skin rash, shortness of breath and swelling of the face or tongue – if you experience any of these, go to A&E.
What’s that about Dolly Parton?
Singer Dolly Parton has been credited with helping fund the Moderna vaccine, after she gave $1m to Vanderbilt University Medical Centre in Nashville, Tennessee. The star has also had the Moderna jab.