Moderna jab to be deployed in a fortnight, minister reveals as experts behind Valneva’s vaccine

By | April 6, 2021

Moderna’s Covid jab will be deployed in the UK in a fortnight: Minister reveals first of 100million doses

  • Nadhim Zahawi said the first batch would arrive in the third week of this month
  • Valneva scientists said they also identified no safety concerns during the trials
  • Britain has ordered 100million doses of jab, which uses inactivated Covid virus
  • But company bosses say they won’t submit it for approval until the autumn

The long-awaited Moderna coronavirus vaccine will be dished out in Britain within the next two weeks, No10’s vaccine minister revealed today. 

Nadhim Zahawi said the first batch of the jab — approved by regulators in January — is set to arrive in the third week of this month, with ‘more volume’ expected in May. 

Ministers had promised Moderna’s vaccine, which uses mRNA technology such as Pfizer’s, would arrive by the spring. Britain has ordered 17million doses.

But confusion erupted over Moderna’s supply today, after Nicola Sturgeon revealed the first batch of doses arrived yesterday. If Scotland’s First Minister is telling the truth, it means the UK is currently sitting on thousands of vaccines that are proven to work. 

The welcome boost to the vaccine roll-out came as Valneva’s Covid jab — which has also been bought by No10 — was shown to trigger antibodies in all volunteers who received a high dose in early-stage trials.   

Scientists testing the jab added they identified no safety concerns, and that it would now move to final phase three trials, with the view of submitting it for approval in the autumn.  

Britain has already ordered 100million doses of the jab — which contains a destroyed version of the real coronavirus — which are being made in Scotland. 

Health Secretary Matt Hancock heralded today’s results as ‘fantastic’ and showing a ‘strong immune response’. ‘This is another boost to British life science,’ he added. 

Mr Zahawi said the results were ‘very promising’ and provided ‘renewed hope’ that a jab using an inactivated virus could spark immunity.

Bosses of Valneva, which is headquartered in France, added they were also looking at ways to tweak their jab to protect against future variants, which may be able to dodge immunity.

More than 31million Brits have already received their first dose of either AstraZeneca or Pfizer’s Covid vaccine, which were the first to be approved in the UK. 

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi pictured receiving his Covid jab. He said today they are expecting the first doses of the long-awaited Moderna jab to arrive this month

Vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi pictured receiving his Covid jab. He said today they are expecting the first doses of the long-awaited Moderna jab to arrive this month

But confusion erupted over Moderna's supply today, after Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon revealed the first batch of doses arrived yesterday

But confusion erupted over Moderna’s supply today, after Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon revealed the first batch of doses arrived yesterday

It came as Valneva said its Covid vaccine was 100 per cent effective at triggering antibodies among all those who received a high dose. It will now move to phase 3 trials

It came as Valneva said its Covid vaccine was 100 per cent effective at triggering antibodies among all those who received a high dose. It will now move to phase 3 trials

WHAT DO VALNEVA COVID JAB TRIALS SHOW?

Valneva has reported the phase 1/2 clinical trial results for its coronavirus vaccine.

They involved 153 British volunteers aged between 18 and 55, who received either a low, medium or high dose of the jab given three weeks apart.

Participants were asked to report any side-effects, and had their blood tested for Covid antibodies two weeks after getting their second dose.

Does the jab trigger Covid-fighting antibodies? 

Results showed everyone who received a high dose of the jab had Covid antibodies in their blood stream.

But only 89.9 per cent had them in the medium dosing group. No figure was given for those that received the low dose. 

The French pharmaceutical giant said it would be advancing the high dose to phase 3 clinical trials.

Is Valneva’s vaccine safe?

No safety concerns were raised during phase 1/2 clinical trials scientists said, paving the way for it to be advanced to the next stage.

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Two volunteers said they had suffered a headache or fatigue after the jabs, but these symptoms are also triggered by other vaccines already approved for use in the UK.

How does the vaccine work? 

The vaccine is the only one being developed in Europe to use an inactivated whole Covid virus to trigger an immune response.

When it is injected the body attacks the spike proteins on the virus – which it uses to invade cells – by making antibodies that can bind to them, stopping an infection from happening.

The virus is killed before it is injected using chemicals, heat or radiation, meaning there is no risk of it triggering an infection.

This type of vaccine is already used to protect against polio and flu. 

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Announcing the impending arrival of the Moderna vaccine, Mr Zahawi told BBC Breakfast: ‘It will be in deployment around the third week of April in the NHS and we will get more volume in May as well.

‘And of course more volume of Pfizer and Oxford/AstraZeneca and we have got other vaccines. We have got the Janssen — Johnson and Johnson — vaccine coming through as well.

‘So I am confident that we will be able to meet our target of mid-April offering the vaccine to all over-50s and then end of July offering the vaccine to all adults.’

Despite Mr Zahawi saying the vaccine won’t be deployed until later this month, Ms Sturgeon said Scotland had already received its first batch of the jab. 

Scotland is due to receive more than one million of the 17million doses ordered by the UK.

The First Minister also said that the doses have already been factored into forward planning for the vaccination programme, and will be delivered over the coming months.

Addressing today’s coronavirus briefing in Edinburgh, she said: ‘The arrival of this first batch doesn’t mean that we are able to accelerate the vaccination programme. 

‘The speed of vaccination is already taking account of the expected Moderna supplies.

‘Nevertheless the fact that we now have three vaccines in use is clearly very welcome and it does give us additional security of supply, which is important.’

Valneva said its phase one and two trials involved 153 British volunteers aged 18 to 55, who received two doses of a low, medium or high amount three weeks apart. 

Participants were then monitored for any side-effects and had their blood tested for antibodies two weeks after getting the second dose. 

All those who received a high dose had antibodies, but only 89.8 per cent of those who were administered a medium shot had them. No figures were given for the low dose. 

It is not clear what constituted a low, medium or high dose of the vaccine. 

No safety concerns were reported following vaccination for any of the doses. Only two volunteers said they suffered a headache or fatigue shortly after getting the jab.

Company bosses said they would move the high dosing regimen to phase three trials, involving more than 4,000 participants, with results expected this autumn.

The vaccine manufacturer expects data from these trials to be available by the autumn, allowing their jab to be submitted to Britain’s regulator the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) for approval.

Doses are already being made in Livingston, West Lothian, ahead of getting the green light with the first 60million doses expected to be delivered by the end of this year.

They will be put into vials in a process called ‘fill and finish’ at a factory in Sweden. 

WHICH VACCINES ARE BRITAIN USING? AND HOW EFFECTIVE ARE THEY?

Pfizer-BioNTech

Approved: December 2, 2020

Doses dished out: 10.8million*

Doses ordered: 40million

Phase 3 trials data

  • Efficacy at blocking symptoms: 95%
  • Efficacy against severe illness: 100%

Real world data

  • Efficacy at stopping transmission: 66% 
  • Efficacy at blocking symptoms (one dose): Between 57 and 61% 
  • Efficacy against severe illness: 80%
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How it works: mRNA vaccine – Genetic material from coronavirus is injected to trick the immune system into making ‘spike’ proteins and learning how to attack them.

Oxford-AstraZeneca

Approved: December 30, 2020

Doses dished out: 15.8million*

Doses ordered: 100million

Phase 3 trials data

  • Efficacy at blocking symptoms (one dose): 70% 
  • Efficacy against severe illness (one dose): 100%

Real world data

  • Efficacy at stopping transmission: 70% 
  • Efficacy at blocking symptoms: Between 60 and 73%
  • Efficacy against severe illness: 80% 

How it works: Adenovirus vaccine – To make the vaccine, the common cold virus is genetically modified to trigger it to make the Covid spike protein — which the virus uses to invade cells.

When the vaccine is administered the patient’s immune system attacks the spike protein by building antibodies, priming it to fight off Covid before it leads to an infection.

Moderna

Approved: January 8, 2021

Doses dished out: Zero

Doses ordered: 17million

Phase 3 trials data

  • Efficacy at blocking symptoms: 94.1% 
  • Efficacy against severe illness: 100%

Real world data

  • Efficacy at stopping transmission: Not known 
  • Efficacy at blocking symptoms: 90%** 
  • Efficacy against severe illness: Not known

How it works: mRNA vaccine – both Moderna’s and Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccines work in the same way.

* the latest data goes up to March 21 

** data taken from a US study, joint with Pfizer. Other real world data comes from Public Health England in the UK 

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Valneva is also behind the Japanese encephalitis vaccine, which is 90 per cent effective at halting symptomatic infections of the virus.

Heralding the results, Mr Hancock said: ‘The UK Government has funded these clinical trials and it is fantastic to see Valneva’s vaccine produces a strong immune response. 

‘This vaccine will be made onshore in Livingston in Scotland, giving another boost to British life science, and if approved will play an important role in protecting our communities. I look forward to seeing the results of the upcoming phase 3 trial.’

And Mr Zahawi added: ‘These results are very promising and provide renewed hope that a vaccine using a whole inactivated virus might provide strong protection against variants. 

‘If the results from the phase three clinical trials are positive and the vaccine meets the robust standards of safety, quality and effectiveness of our medicines regulator, the MHRA, this will be another powerful weapon in our arsenal to beat this pandemic.’ 

It comes as Britain’s drug regulator mulls over whether to restrict the use of the AstraZeneca vaccine among young people amid blood clot concerns.

Seven people have died of a rare blood clot on the brain after having the jab in the UK, out of more than 18.1million doses administered so far. 

And there have been only 30 cases of rare clotting events registered, the equivalent of one in every 600,000 people or 0.00017 per cent.

The MHRA insists there is no evidence to link the jab to cases of CVST – a rare type of blood clot that can cause strokes – but that it will continue to review the data. 

WHICH COVID VACCINES WILL BRITAIN GET ITS HANDS ON? 

Pfizer/BioNTech (approved) 40million doses

The breakthrough jab was the first in the world to be proven to successfully block severe Covid-19 last year and it gained approval in the UK on December 2. 

Type: It uses brand-new technology and is known as a messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine. Conventional vaccines are produced using weakened forms of the virus, but mRNAs use only the virus’s genetic code to enters cells and tells them to create antigens, which make them look like the coronavirus.

Efficacy: Studies showed the two-dose vaccine could prevent severe illness in 95 per cent of people who were injected with it. 

How many? The Government has ordered 40million doses, enough to vaccinate 20million Brits, but only a handful of million Brits have received the jab so far. 

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Oxford University/AstraZeneca (approved) — 100million doses  

Type: Oxford’s vaccine is made from a weakened version of a common cold virus known as adenovirus which is genetically engineered to carry the genetics needed to create ‘spike’ proteins that make cells look like the coronavirus.

Efficacy: It was shown to be about 70 per cent effective at blocking Covid-19. In early results this varied from 62 per cent in people who received the full two doses to 90 per cent in people who received 1.5, however scientists say the 62 per cent figure has improved since those results were published.

How many? The UK has ordered 100million doses.

Moderna (approved) — 17million doses ordered

Type: Moderna’s jab also uses mRNA technology and works in a similar way to the Pfizer one already being offered on the NHS.

Efficacy: It was found to have 95 per cent efficacy in clinical trials.

How many? Britain has ordered 17million doses but was late to the party because it didn’t want to bet on this as well as the Pfizer jab, because both are based on the same technology. The first doses are expected to arrive in March.  

Novavax (waiting approval) — 100million doses

Type: The Novavax vaccine works like other vaccines by teaching the immune system to make antibodies to the coronavirus spike protein. Researchers inserted a modified gene into a virus, called a baculovirus, and allowed it to infect insect cells. Spike proteins from these cells were then assembled into nanoparticles which, while they look like coronavirus, cannot replicate or cause Covid-19.

Efficacy: Novavax said the trials had shown its vaccine was 89.3 per cent effective at preventing Covid-19.

How many? Under a deal with the Government, 60million doses of the vaccine will be produced on Teesside for use in this country. 

Janssen/Johnson and Johnson (waiting approval) — 30million doses 

Type: The jab uses the same adenovirus technology as the Oxford University vaccine, making it just as easy to transport and store, but requires just a single injection to protect against Covid

Efficacy: Johnson and Johnson said it prevents, on average, 66 per cent of all coronavirus cases among people who get the jab.

The company also found it prevented severe symptoms in 85 per cent of people and no-one who got the jab died or needed hospital treatment from 28 days after being inoculated. 

The 66 per cent efficacy was a global average, with the jab preventing 72 per cent of cases in the US but only 57 per cent in South Africa, which is being devastated by a mutated variant that appears to be less susceptible to vaccines and immunity from older versions of the virus. It is promising, however, that the jab still worked in South Africa and still prevented hospitalisation.

How many? The UK has already struck a deal for 30million doses, with the option of ordering 22million more.  

Valneva (in trials) — 100million doses

Type: This jab is an ‘inactivated whole virus vaccine’ which uses a damaged version of the real coronavirus to stimulate the immune system.

Efficacy: Unknown – trials are still ongoing, 

How many? Britain has already ordered 100million doses and the first batches could be delivered by the end of 2021. 

GlaxoSmithKline/Sanofi Pasteur (in trials) — 60million doses  

Type: GSK’s vaccine is based on the existing technology used to produce Sanofi’s seasonal flu vaccine. Genetic material from the surface protein of the Covid virus is inserted into insect cells – the basis of Sanofi’s influenza product – and then injected to provoke an immune response in a human patient.

Efficacy: Unknown – trials are still ongoing.

How many?  The UK in July secured 60million doses of the prospective treatment, but the companies say they will likely not be ready before the end of 2021.

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