How effective is the Moderna Covid vaccine and is it safe?

The Moderna vaccine is the third vaccine to be approved in the UK. (Credits: Getty Images)

The first Moderna Covid vaccine was administered in the UK today, adding to the AstraZeneca and Pfizer jabs already in circulation.

The Moderna jab has been found to be more than 90% effective in a real-world study in the US, and is based on the same technology as the successful Pfizer mRNA vaccine.

Moderna’s vaccine, named mRNA-1273, has been found to be very safe in all clinical trials so far, and has been in widespread use in the US since January.

Here, takes a look at what we know about the Moderna jab.

How was the trial run, and what are the early results?

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

Two doses were given, 28 days apart, so researchers could evaluate safety and any reaction to the vaccine.

The analysis included 95 participants with confirmed cases of Covid-19, of which 90 had received the placebo and five the active vaccine.

Moderna also released data relating to severe cases, saying the interim analysis included 11 such patients.

All 11 severe cases occurred in the placebo group and none in the group which had received the vaccine, known currently as mRNA-1273.

This led to Moderna declaring the vaccine had an efficacy of more than 90% – something has been borne out in the real world.

The vaccine uses the same technology as the Pfizer vaccine. Pictures: a vial of the Pfizer vaccine. (Photo: Getty)

How does the vaccine work?

The Moderna jab is a messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine.

Conventional vaccines are produced using weakened forms of the virus, but mRNAs use only the virus’s genetic code.

An mRNA vaccine is injected 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.

This means the rate at which the vaccine can be produced is accelerated.

Is the vaccine safe?

In a trial of 30,000 people, serious adverse events to the Moderna vaccine were found to be rare.

While moderate side effects were common, like injection-site pain, fatigue, muscle pain and other symptoms, these were an expected part of the body’s immune response.

These symptoms were generally short-lived, and far less severe than people with full blown Covid infections.

The US Food and Drug Administration added that there were ‘no specific safety concerns identified’ in any of the trial data.

The vaccine has been in widespread use in the US since January and appears to be confirming the trial data’s findings.

Does this mean everything will go back to normal?

The Moderna vaccine will hopefully be followed by more approved vaccines. (Credits: Getty Images)

Having a third vaccine available in the UK is welcome news.

With the AstraZeneca vaccine currently under review for the potential of incredibly rare blood clots, and the Pfizer vaccine in shorter supply, a third jab will help the vaccine rollout to continue at pace.

However, whether restrictions can stay permanently lifted in June depends on how many people are vaccinated and whether the vaccine technology can stay ahead of any potential vaccine variants.

The UK also has ordered a further two vaccines, manufactured by Novavax and Johnson & Johnson, separately, but these have yet to be approved by the UK’s medicine regulator.

Is the Moderna vaccine better than that Pfizer/BioNTech offering?

Pfizer and Moderna both say their vaccine offers more than 90% protection against Covid-19.

Both vaccines are based on the mRNA technology.

The preliminary data suggests the Pfizer vaccine offers around 95% protection against Covid-19, and Moderna’s results suggest 94% effectiveness.

But both sets of researchers say the final numbers could change as the jab is rolled out globally.

One big difference between the two vaccine candidates is how they need to be stored.

The Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine needs to kept at minus 70C (minus 94F), which poses transport and storage issues.

Moderna says its vaccine is expected to remain stable at standard refrigerator temperatures of 2C to 8C (36F to 46F) for 30 days.

The company says mRNA-1273 can be distributed using widely available vaccine delivery and storage infrastructure and no dilution is required prior to vaccination.

Carer, 24, becomes first person in the UK to receive Moderna vaccine

MORE : First doses of Moderna vaccine rolled out in Wales today

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