The UK expects to receive the first shipment of a new coronavirus vaccine next month, a cabinet minister has confirmed.
Culture Minister Oliver Dowden was confident that the first Moderna shocks will arrive in April. This would be a relief for the entire vaccine rollout program, which has faced questions about AstraZeneca deliveries over the past few weeks.
He doubted resumption of non-essential international travel, however, and conceded that all legal restrictions may not end as hoped in June after a government adviser raised concerns about the full relaxation plan.
Ministers have insisted they will achieve the goal of giving all adults a stab by July, but supplies have been hampered by problems in India and a dispute with the European Union over exports has raised concerns.
Mr Dowden insisted that the vaccination program “stay on track” and told the Andrew Marr Show, “We expect Moderna to come in April.”
It is hoped that an additional 500,000 doses will help expand the vaccine to include those under the age of 50 in just a few weeks.
Professor Anthony Harnden, vice chairman of the Joint Vaccination and Immunization Committee (JCVI), said the data on the Moderna vaccine are very promising.
When asked at the BBC Sunday breakfast whether the Moderna vaccine could open the door to people under 50 to be vaccinated, he said, “We looked at Moderna’s data, which looks very promising.
“It’s a very similar type of vaccine to the Pfizer Biontech vaccine that everyone is familiar with, a messenger RNA vaccine, and I think we’ll be using it in late April.”
“When we have caught up with all of the 50-plus-year-olds we want to reach, it makes sense to move to our next age group, the 40 to 49 year olds.”
Prof. Harnden said he was confident that everyone would be offered a second dose of coronavirus vaccine within 12 weeks of the first bumps.
He said there was a “relatively small” number of people over 50 waiting to be vaccinated because 30 million first-time doses were offered and there are around 32-33 million over 50 in the UK.
Prof. Harnden added: “I am confident that everyone will be offered a second vaccine within 12 weeks, which is what we set out to do.
“With these second vaccines, this is really important because it will give you longer and better long-term protection. It’s pretty clear that we have to push by April to get these second vaccinations.”
“Since supplies are a bit bumpy, it makes a lot of sense to try and immunize anyone over the age of 50 and continue those second vaccinations in April.”