A FDNY EMS Fire Department employee receives a COVID-19 Moderna vaccine amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic in the Manhattan neighborhood of New York City, New York, United States. December 23, 2020.
Carlo Allegri | Reuters
LONDON – The UK Medicines Agency approved Moderna's coronavirus vaccine for emergency use in the country on Friday.
It comes as the UK is battling a more contagious strain of the virus, which has resulted in an alarming spike in infections and deaths across the country and resulted in a third lockdown.
Moderna's is the third shot to have been approved for use in the UK following previous approvals for the vaccines from Pfizer and BioNTech, as well as the University of Oxford and AstraZeneca.
In a press release, the country's Ministry of Health announced that the Moderna vaccine met "strict standards for safety, efficacy and quality" set by the drug and health product regulator.
It added that the UK had ordered an additional 10 million doses of the vaccine for a grand total of 17 million. They are expected to be available from spring.
The MHRA approved the Moderna vaccine after months of rigorous clinical trials involving tens of thousands of people. It added that it was 94% effective in preventing Covid, even in the elderly.
"This is more great news and another weapon in our arsenal to tame this terrible disease," Health and Welfare Secretary Matt Hancock said in a statement.
On December 8, the UK became one of the first countries in the world to start vaccinating its population against the coronavirus. The country approved the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine on December 2nd and the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot on December 30th.
It has now vaccinated around 1.5 million people, and Hancock said Friday's approval will allow the country to accelerate its vaccination program from spring onwards.
The vaccines will be given to priority groups first, including those in nursing homes, people over 80, and frontline health and social workers.
In total, the UK has received 367 million doses from seven different vaccine candidates, including 40 million from Pfizer-BioNTech and 100 million from Oxford-AstraZeneca.
The UK has reported nearly 2.9 million confirmed cases of the coronavirus and over 78,600 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University.
On Thursday, it reported the second highest number of daily Covid deaths at 1,162. It was the eleventh time the UK has recorded more than 1,000 deaths a day.
Meanwhile, London Mayor Sadiq Khan declared the coronavirus pandemic a "major incident" in London on Friday as hospitals seem almost overwhelmed. Over 800 patients are admitted to hospitals in the capital every day, officials warned at a press conference.