A new brand of Covid vaccine is due to arrive in the UK imminently, a Tory Cabinet minister has confirmed.
Oliver Dowden said the Moderna vaccine will finally start arriving in April, three months after it was approved by the MHRA regulator.
The UK has ordered 17million doses from the US firm, and it will be the third working vaccine to be rolled out in the UK on top of the existing Pfizer and AstraZeneca jabs.
Downing Street had only promised the Moderna jab would arrive by “Spring” and had been cagey on the timetable.
But Culture Secretary Mr Dowden told Sky News today: “We do expect Moderna to come later this month.”
He reiterated: “We don’t get into the details of supply chains, but the Health Secretary has indicated that he would expect later this month we’d start to see Moderna.”
Government sources later suggested Mr Dowden had meant to refer to the month of April, not this month – which ends on Wednesday. Mr Dowden then clarified to the BBC: “We expect that in April Moderna will come.”
However, that would appear to confirm reports overnight that the Moderna vaccine will start arriving within three weeks.
Mr Dowden insisted the UK was on track to meet its target to offer a first dose to all over-50s by April 15.
Some 65% of 50-54-year-olds and 80% of 55-59-year-olds in England have already had a first dose as of March 21.
But NHS chiefs have previously warned of a supply shortage that will mean it takes longer to start offering widespread first doses to healthy under-50s.
It had been thought under-50s would barely be able to book slots during April as NHS chiefs focus on ticking off hard-to-reach over-50s, and giving second doses to people who had the jab in January.
The news comes as Britain prepares for a relaxation of lockdown measures beginning on Monday, when groups of up to six people – or two households, whichever is larger – will be able to meet up outside.