Western Morning News (Saturday)

New vaccine approved for UK as deaths hit new peak

- JANE KIRBY

ATHIRD vaccine in the fight against coronaviru­s has been approved for use in the UK as the country recorded its highest number of Covid-19 deaths reported on a single day. The jab, from US biotech firm Moderna, has been given the green light by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) - joining the vaccines from Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZenec­a.

It comes as the Government said 1,325 people had died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 – the highest number of UK deaths reported on a single day since the outbreak began.

There were a further 68,053 lab-confirmed cases of coronaviru­s in the UK, the highest figure reported in a single day since the start of mass testing last May, although it may have been higher in April 2020 when mass testing was not taking place, with cases estimated to have been as high as 100,000 per day at the peak of the first wave.

In London, mayor Sadiq Khan declared a “major incident” as the spread of coronaviru­s threatens to “overwhelm” the capital’s hospitals.

Elsewhere, hospitals also reported increasing pressures, with more than half of all major hospital trusts in England currently having more Covid-19 patients than at the peak of the first wave. A doctor from Merseyside said her hospital is “almost at the limit” with patients having to wait in corridors or ambulances.

The approval of the Moderna jab means the UK should have three vaccines to use when it comes on stream in spring. The Government has increased its order of the vaccine to 17 million doses – enough to vaccinate 8.5 million people – with batches expected to be released in phases.

It has been shown to be 94% effective against Covid-19 in clinical trials.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted: “Excellent news the @MHRAgovuk has approved the use of the @moderna-tx vaccine.

“Our national vaccine effort is accelerati­ng to vaccinate priority groups with our existing two vaccines, and the Moderna doses will add to that when they become available in spring.”

Health Secretary Matt Hancock tweeted: “This is fantastic news and another weapon in our arsenal to tame this awful disease.”

Nearly 1.5 million people in the UK have already been vaccinated with the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford University/AstraZenec­a vaccines, with the Government aiming to jab 15 million of those most at risk by mid-February.

Scientists advising the Government believe the current lockdown may lead to a plateau of cases of coronaviru­s across the UK rather than the dramatic cut seen in the March and April lockdown. They estimate there are more than 100,000 new infections per day and possibly higher than 150,000. They believe this estimate puts the current number of daily cases at a higher level than during the first wave of the pandemic. Hospitals are now seeing far more younger people than during the first wave. With the current lockdown and vaccine rollout, deaths from coronaviru­s are expected to start dropping in February, while hospital admissions should drop after that. Coronaviru­s cases are expected to drop in the spring.

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