France, UK regulators approve Moderna vaccine in race against Covid-19
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France's national health authority said Friday that it has approved Moderna's vaccine for people 18 and older, to be rolled out in the coming weeks. This follows an EU validation on Wednesday. UK authorities also gave it the green light.
The decision clears the way for a second vaccine option after the Pfizer-BioNTech jab in an inoculation campaign that has been assailed by critics as lagging far behind those of its neighbours.
The Moderna shot, validated by the European regulatory body EMA on Wednesday could also be used for people over 75, since data so far suggests an 86 percent effective rate for the elderly, compared with 94 percent efficiency for younger adults.
The French government's head of the vaccination campaign, Alain Fischer, told BFM radio that the first deliveries of the Moderna shots "should occur in the coming days, or the second half of January at the latest".
French authorities reported 21,703 new daily cases and 277 deaths on Thursday, bringing the French death toll to 66,841.
France is seeking to vaccinate a million people before the end of January, to speed up a process which got off to a slow start. The government is also concerned by the presence of a new variant of the virus.
London gives the go-ahead
Britain on Friday approved a third Covid-19 vaccine for its mass inoculation drive, as regulators gave the green light to a jab developed by US firm Moderna.
Some 1.5 million people have been given doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech or Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines since early December, and the government is aiming to have 15 million inoculated by mid-February.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the approval of the Moderna jab by the Independent Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) was another shot in the arm for the programme.
"This is further great news and another weapon in our arsenal to tame this awful disease," he said.
1,000 new vaccination sites
Britain has ordered 17 million doses of the vaccine, which will be delivered in the coming months once Moderna increases production capacity, it added.
Elderly residents and staff at care homes, the over-70s and the clinically extremely vulnerable are first in line for the jabs, and the government has stepped up the programme to meet its February target.
More than 1,000 new vaccination sites, including in community pharmacies and even supermarket car parks, are expected to be open by the end of this week.
A total of 1,162 new deaths within 28 days of a positive test were recorded on Thursday -- the highest since the first-wave peak in April last year.
Overall, some 2.9 million people have been infected in the UK. Stay-at-home restrictions, which include school closures, are expected to last until at least mid-February.
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