What You Need To Know About The Moderna Vaccine Rollout

The Moderna vaccine is expected to roll out in the UK in April – meaning the UK will have three Covid-19 vaccines in its arsenal to fight against the virus.

More than 30 million people in the UK have already received their first dose of either the Pfizer/BioNTech or Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines, which is more than half the adult population.

The government has high hopes of offering everyone over the age of 18 a first dose of the jab by the end of July.

Here’s what you need to know about the newest Covid-busting jab on the block.

How it works

Like the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, the Moderna jab is a mRNA vaccine.

The virus that causes Covid-19 – known as SARS-CoV-2 – contains a spike protein that it uses to enter human cells. The Moderna vaccine uses synthetic messenger RNA (mRNA), a genetic material that contains information about the spike protein.

This synthetic messenger provides the body with instructions to produce a tiny piece of this protein, which your body recognises if it’s ever exposed to it again. It’s a bit like injecting an instruction manual, so that your body – specifically your immune system – knows what to do when you come into contact with the real deal.

Such vaccines don’t use the live virus that causes Covid-19, so they can’t give you Covid just by having them. There have also been concerns they might alter DNA in some way, but this is not true nor possible, say scientists – mRNA doesn’t enter the nucleus of the cell, which is where our DNA (genetic material) is kept, explains the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The cell breaks down and gets rid of the mRNA soon after it’s finished using the instructions to build the bit of protein.

When will it arrive in the UK?

The government has signed up for 17 million doses of the Moderna jab. It’s likely this will be rolled out in the younger cohorts (under 50s) as people will need their first dose and second dose to be from the same provider.

The UK is expected to receive its first shipment of the vaccine in April, according to Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden. Moderna also confirmed a delivery date of April.

The rollout will provide some relief during the forewarned slowdown period in the UK, which will see fewer people given their first dose due to a need to “retest the stability” of a batch of 1.7m doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine and a hold up in a vaccine shipment from India.

What’s the dosing?

Like the other two Covid-19 vaccines used in the UK, the Moderna jab will be given as two injections, ideally spaced 28 days apart. The vaccine will be injected into the muscle of your upper arm.

During and after each injection of the vaccine, you will be monitored for 15 minutes for signs of an allergic reaction. This is standard procedure.

How effective is the jab?

The Moderna jab has a vaccine efficacy of 94.5%, meaning it should protect against around nine in 10 cases of Covid-19.

In comparison, the Pfizer vaccine’s effectiveness was at least 97% in preventing symptomatic disease, severe/critical disease and death, while the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine has been found to be 76% effective at preventing the virus.

What are the side effects?

Like all vaccines, you can experience side effects after having the Moderna jab. The most common ones are:

  • Tenderness and swelling of the underarm glands on the same side as the injection site
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle ache, joint aches, and stiffness
  • Pain or swelling at the injection site
  • Feeling very tired
  • Chills
  • Fever

Most side effects go away within a few days and people are encouraged to take paracetamol to manage any aches or pains.

In rare instances, it’s possible to experience a severe allergic reaction to the jab. Signs of which include itchy skin rash, shortness of breath and swelling of the face or tongue – if you experience any of these, go to A&E.

What’s that about Dolly Parton?

Singer Dolly Parton has been credited with helping fund the Moderna vaccine, after she gave $1m to Vanderbilt University Medical Centre in Nashville, Tennessee. The star has also had the Moderna jab.

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