England is gearing up to offer its first doses of the Moderna jab, the third Covid-19 vaccine introduced as part of the national deployment of vaccines.
On Tuesday, vaccination will be available at 21 sites, including the Madejski Stadium in Reading and the Sheffield Arena. It will offer an alternative to the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine for under-30s, after concerns about a possible link to very rare blood clots. The Pfizer jab has already also been available.
England follows Wales and Scotland, which began using the Moderna vaccine last week. The Vaccines Taskforce has secured 17m doses of the Moderna vaccine for the UK.
It comes as all over-45 year-olds are being invited to receive a coronavirus vaccine.
Prof Stephen Powis, the medical director of NHS England, said having the Moderna vaccine marked another “milestone” in the national programme, and was another jab in our “armoury”.
He said more sites would offer the Moderna vaccine as additional supplies arrive, urging people to get vaccinated when they are invited, as it is “our hope at the end of a year like no other”.
All over-50s and high-risk groups in the UK have been offered a coronavirus vaccine before the mid-April deadline set by the government, allowing the second phase of the rollout to younger cohorts to begin.
Boris Johnson hailed the passing of “another hugely significant milestone”.
However, the turning point comes amid fears of a slowdown in supply of vaccines and possible fall in confidence after a change in advice on who could get the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab.
With more than 32 million people having had a first dose and 7.6 million of those having received their second, the prime minister said “many thousands of lives” had been saved.
Public Health England released operational details about the Moderna jab on Monday, including information on the dose, the interval between first and second jab, the storage temperature and whether people who receive the jab would need to be monitored afterwards.
The vaccine needs to be stored at a temperature of -25C to -15C and once thawed can be stored at 2C to 8C for up to 30 days. The minimum interval between first and second dose of the Moderna vaccine is 28 days. Patients who receive the Moderna jab will need to wait at the vaccination centre and be observed for a period of 15 minutes after they receive the vaccine.
On Monday evening, and earlier than expected, Johnson announced the target had been reached. The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation – the body advising on which groups should be prioritised for a jab – are to publish their final advice later this week on who should be next in line.
Johnson suggested the current plan would continue, meaning people in their late 40s will be offered a vaccine next. The JCVI’s interim plan published earlier in the year said the rollout should continue down the age groups, with over-18s offered it last.
Sir Simon Stevens, the chief executive of the NHS in England, said: “Vaccinating 19 out of 20 people aged 50 and over is an incredible milestone. Thanks to our NHS nurses, doctors, pharmacists, operational managers and thousands of other staff and volunteers, the NHS Covid vaccination programme is without a doubt the most successful in our history.”