Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine has been authorized for emergency use by the U.K. regulator, bringing a third shot to the country that is battling a surge in coronavirus cases.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, or the MHRA, authorized use of the two-shot vaccine developed by Moderna
after a “thorough and rigorous assessment,” the department of health and social care said in a statement on Friday.
Read: U.K. becomes first country to roll out AstraZeneca-Oxford vaccine
Three COVID-19 vaccines have now been approved for use in the U.K.: those developed by German company BioNTech
and U.S. partner Pfizer
and by AstraZeneca
with the University of Oxford are already being rolled out across the country, which has been struggling to contain an outbreak of a more contagious strain of COVID-19.
A variant found in South Africa is another looming concern for public health authorities.
Read: Pfizer–BioNTech vaccine appears to protect against U.K. and South African COVID-19 strains, study finds
On Thursday, the U.K. recorded 1,162 daily deaths, the second highest figure since the COVID-19 pandemic began.
The British government said it had agreed to purchase an additional 10 million doses of the Moderna vaccine on top of its previous order of 7 million, taking the total to 17 million.
“Through our vaccine delivery plan we have already vaccinated nearly 1.5 million people across the U.K.,” Britain’s health secretary, Matt Hancock, said in a statement. “The Moderna vaccine will boost our vaccination programme even further once doses become available from the spring.”
Like the Pfizer-BioNTech shot, Moderna’s vaccine uses the mRNA approach, which sends a message to cells telling them to create proteins to generate an immune response.
Moderna’s vaccine, which is has been shown to be 94% effective in preventing coronavirus, can be stored at standard freezer temperatures of -20 Celsius (-4 Fahrenheit) for up to six months. After it’s thawed, it can be kept in a refrigerator for up to 30 days.
Read: Moderna stock is starting the year with a bump
Earlier this week, the European Medicines Agency, or EMA, recommended Moderna’s vaccine for conditional market authorization, making it the second vaccine available in the 27-member European Union.
“With the Moderna vaccine, the second one now authorized in the EU, we will have a further 160 million doses. And more vaccines will come,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement.
On Friday, the EMA said that the product information for BioNTech and Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine should be updated to say there are six doses in each vial. The authorization granted to the vaccine, referred to as Comirnaty in Europe, on Dec. 21 in the European Union indicates there are five doses in each vial.