Covid: Moderna vaccine rollout to begin in Wales

Three Covid-19 vaccines

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A third Covid-19 vaccine will be rolled out across Wales from Wednesday with patients in Carmarthenshire becoming the first in the UK to receive it.

The Moderna vaccine was approved as safe and effective for use in the UK in January this year.

Supplies arrived in Wales on Tuesday, with 5,000 doses sent to Hywel Dda University Health Board vaccination centres.

The first doses will be administered at Carmarthen’s Glangwili Hospital.

The UK has ordered 17 million doses of the Moderna vaccine, with Wales receiving a proportion of that number.

The jab is the third of seven vaccines that the UK has ordered. Like the Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca jabs which are already in use, the Moderna jab is given in two doses several weeks apart.

It has not yet been confirmed when the rest of the UK can expect to start using it. Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed they have received their first batch, while the UK government’s vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi said on Tuesday that the Moderna vaccine would be deployed “around the third week of April”.

Across the whole of the UK, more than 31.6 million people have now had a first dose – about three in five adults – while 5.4 million have been fully vaccinated.

In Wales, more than 1.49 million people (47.4% of the population) have had a first dose, while more than 469,000 people have had both doses.

But the UK’s Covid vaccine supplies are set to be delayed by “up to four weeks” in April and Wales expects to have 250,000 fewer Oxford-AstraZeneca jab doses.

Wales’ chief pharmacist, Andrew Evans, has said he hopes the Moderna vaccine rollout will help make up the shortfall.

How does the Moderna jab work?

How an RNA vaccine works - the genetic code of the virus is made into a vaccine and injected into the body. The vaccine mimics the coronavirus and the body's immune system reacts by making anti bodies and t - cells. If a person encounters the virus this triggers an immune response.

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The Moderna vaccine is a two-dose jab given at an interval of between four and 12 weeks.

Like Pfizer’s, it is an RNA vaccine and works by injecting part of the virus’s genetic code into the body, where it enters cells and tells them to create antigens.

These antigens are recognised by the immune system and prepare it to fight coronavirus.

No actual virus is needed to create an mRNA vaccine, meaning the rate at which it can be produced is accelerated.

It requires temperatures of around -20C for shipping – similar to a normal freezer.

How effective is the Moderna vaccine?

How the vaccines compare

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Trial results suggested efficacy against the disease was 94.1%, and vaccine efficacy against severe Covid-19 was 100%.

More than 30,000 people in the US took part in the trial, from a wide range of age groups and ethnic backgrounds.

How many doses of the Moderna vaccine does the UK have?

The government has bought 17 million doses – enough to vaccinate about 8.5 million people.

Scotland’s first batch arrived on Monday. The country is due to receive more than one million of the UK’s order, and the doses will arrive over a period of months.

Ms Sturgeon cautioned that the supply does not mean the vaccine programme will be accelerated.

Chart showing the vaccine doses the UK has on order

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Is the Moderna vaccine safe?

Moderna said the vaccine was generally well tolerated, with no serious safety concerns identified.

Severe events after the first dose included injection-site pain, and after the second dose fatigue, muscle pain, joint pain, headache, other pain and redness at the injection site.

But these were generally short-lived.

It comes as the UK’s medicines regulator continues to investigate a possible link between the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and rare blood clots in adults – although it said the benefits of the jab continue to outweigh any risk.

On Tuesday, the trial of the Oxford vaccine on children stopped giving out jabs to children as a precaution.

Covid-19 vaccinations in Wales. Daily doses .  Up to 22:00, 5 April.

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Ros Jervis, director of public health for Hywel Dda University Health Board, said the Moderna vaccine would be used alongside the Oxford AstraZeneca jab in the rollout to communities in Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire.

“We are incredibly lucky to have a third vaccine in Wales, with a long shelf life and the ability to be easily transported, to help deliver the vaccination programme to small clinics across our rural communities,” he said.

Health Minister Vaughan Gething said a third vaccine for use in Wales “significantly adds” to the nation’s defences against Covid-19.

“Every vaccine given to someone in Wales is a small victory against the virus and we would encourage everyone to go for their vaccine when invited,” he said.

A Welsh Conservatives spokesman said: “The Conservative [UK] government’s decision to go it alone has been fully vindicated with the phenomenal results of the British vaccination programme, and the roll-out of the Moderna vaccine, administered by our outstanding NHS and volunteers, will only boost our ability to protect Welsh people and restore our freedoms.”

The Welsh Liberal Democrats said the third vaccine came as “welcome news” to those waiting on a vaccine appointment.

“Wales’ priority must be to roll out this vaccines to ensure everyone in Wales is vaccinated as quickly and safely as possible,” a spokesman added.

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