Boris Johnson hails approval of third coronavirus vaccine for use in the UK

The Moderna jab has been shown to be 94% effective against Covid-19 and should be available in the UK from spring.

Boris Johnson hails approval of third coronavirus vaccine for use in the UK

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said it is “excellent news” that a third coronavirus vaccine has been approved for use in the UK.

The jab, from US biotech firm Moderna, has been given the green light by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA),  joining the vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca.

The Moderna jab has been shown to be 94% effective against Covid-19 and should be available in the UK from spring.

Mr Johnson tweeted: “Excellent news the @MHRAgovuk has approved the use of the @moderna_tx vaccine.

“Our national vaccine effort is accelerating to vaccinate priority groups with our existing two vaccines, and the Moderna doses will add to that when they become available in spring.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock tweeted: “This is fantastic news and another weapon in our arsenal to tame this awful disease.”

Nearly 1.5 million people in the UK have already been vaccinated with the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford University/AstraZeneca vaccines, with the Government aiming to jab 15 million of those most at risk by mid-February.

Cumulative Covid-19 vaccinations in the UK
(PA Graphics)

City Hall said Covid-19 cases in London had exceeded 1,000 per 100,000, while there are 35% more people in hospital with the virus than in the peak of the pandemic in April.

A “major incident” means the “severity of the consequences” associated with it are “likely to constrain or complicate the ability of responders to resource and manage the incident”.

Professor Kevin Fenton, Public Health England’s regional director for London, said: “This is the biggest threat our city has faced in this pandemic to date.

“The emergence of the new variant means we are setting record case rates at almost double the national average, with at least one in 30 people (in London) now thought to be carrying the virus.

“Our NHS services are under immense pressure and currently another 800 people are being admitted to our hospitals every day.”

Covid-19 growth rates
(PA Graphics)

They estimate there are currently more than 100,000 new infections per day and possibly higher than 150,000.

They believe this estimate puts the current number of daily cases at a higher level than during the first wave of the pandemic.

With the current lockdown and vaccine rollout, deaths from coronavirus are expected to start dropping in February, while hospital admissions should drop after that.

Coronavirus cases are expected to drop in the spring due to vaccination plus the fact people spend more time outdoors, making it harder for the virus to spread.

The pharmaceutical giant and researchers from the University of Texas Medical Branch carried out lab tests on the strains, one of which was found in the UK while the other originated in South Africa.

Both variants contain mutations including N501Y, an alteration in the spike protein of the virus, which is a target for vaccines.

In the new study, which has not yet been peer-reviewed, people given the Pfzier jab had neutralising levels of antibodies which appeared to work against N501Y in the new strains.

However, one of the mutations in the South Africa variant, named E484K, has not yet been studied and is still causing concern for experts.

While scientists at the top of Government increasingly believe the UK variant can be tacked with existing vaccines, there is concern that the South African variant has the potential to make them less effective, though studies are ongoing.

Public behaviours over the Christmas period
(PA Graphics)

It comes as:

– The reproductive rate – the R rate – of the virus is thought to be between one and 1.4. The R refers to the number of people an infected person will pass the virus onto.

– Police in England and Wales have handed out more than 30,000 fines under coronavirus laws since the start of the pandemic.

– Most school pupils in Wales will be taught online until January 29, with this continuing until the February half-term unless there is a “significant reduction” in Covid-19 cases, First Minister Mark Drakeford has said.

– Around one in 50 people in England have coronavirus, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS). Meanwhile, eight in 10 recent positive cases of Covid-19 in London and eastern England could be the new variant discovered in the UK.

– Some 44% of adults in England, Scotland and Wales said they formed a Christmas day bubble, ONS data shows.

Meanwhile, papers released by the Government from the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Behaviours (SPI-B), which advises ministers, suggests communication campaigns will be needed to ensure those who are vaccinated continue to adhere to lockdown rules.

It said there was some evidence that, “in the absence of any mitigation policies, some of those who have been vaccinated will show a reduction in personal protective behaviours” such as mask-wearing and social distancing.

It is not yet known whether vaccination can prevent people passing the virus onto other people.

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