Covid UK: Carer, 24, is first person to get Moderna Covid vaccine in Wales

A 24-year-old carer today became the first person in Britain to get Moderna’s Covid vaccine as the roll-out was expanded in Wales – but England has to wait for another fortnight before it can use the jab. 

Elle Taylor, from Ammanford, revealed she was ‘very excited and happy’ to receive the jab, adding that the nurses were lovely and it ‘didn’t hurt’.

‘I’m an unpaid carer for my grandmother so it is very important to me that I get it, so I can care for her properly and safely,’ she said. ‘My grandmother has had her first dose and she is going for her second dose on Saturday.’

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said he was ‘delighted’ the first dose of Moderna’s vaccine had been administered in the UK.

But confusion has erupted over the roll-out of the jab – the third to be deployed in Britain. No10’s vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi yesterday revealed Moderna’s shot would only be used from the third week of April.

Nicola Sturgeon, however, revealed hours later that the first batch had already arrived in Scotland, with sources saying it would be dished out later this week.

Britain is only expected to get 100,000 doses of Moderna’s vaccine in April. Around five per cent of that supply has already been sent to one Welsh hospital trust, covering three regions. Wales has already moved on to offering over-45s jabs.

Ministers have bought 17million doses in total – enough for 8.5million people – and have planned for deliveries of the jab to ‘significantly increase’ in May. Leaked supply projections suggest No10 anticipated it would receive around 160,000 doses every week next month.

But with doubts mounting about the availability of AstraZeneca’s vaccine amid fears the jab could be banned for younger adults, the lack of supply leaves serious questions about whether or not Britain can push on with the inoculation drive.

No10 has repeatedly insisted it is on track to hit its goal of offering every eligible adult a jab by the end of July. And the drive must go smoothly if restrictions are to be eased drastically over the coming months.

But the Government has not factored in a potential ban on using AstraZeneca’s vaccine in the next phase of the roll-out. The jab is currently the main weapon in the country’s arsenal, with Pfizer’s supply being rationed for top-ups.

Health watchdogs are set to make a final ruling on the use of the vaccine in the coming days, with Government advisers saying that blood clot fears are being taken ‘very seriously’ and hinting that Moderna’s jab could be reserved for under-50s. 

Elle Taylor, 24, today became the first person to receive the Moderna jab in the UK. She said it would help her care for her grandmother 'properly and safely'

Elle Taylor, 24, today became the first person to receive the Moderna jab in the UK. She said it would help her care for her grandmother 'properly and safely'

Elle Taylor, 24, today became the first person to receive the Moderna jab in the UK. She said it would help her care for her grandmother ‘properly and safely’

The UK has bought 17 million doses of the Moderna jab ¿ enough for 8.5 million people

The UK has bought 17 million doses of the Moderna jab ¿ enough for 8.5 million people

The UK has bought 17 million doses of the Moderna jab – enough for 8.5 million people

Ministers have bought 17million doses in total ¿ enough for 8.5million people ¿ and have planned for deliveries of the jab to 'significantly increase' in May. Leaked supply projections suggest No10 anticipated it would receive around 160,000 doses every week next month

Ministers have bought 17million doses in total ¿ enough for 8.5million people ¿ and have planned for deliveries of the jab to 'significantly increase' in May. Leaked supply projections suggest No10 anticipated it would receive around 160,000 doses every week next month

Ministers have bought 17million doses in total – enough for 8.5million people – and have planned for deliveries of the jab to ‘significantly increase’ in May. Leaked supply projections suggest No10 anticipated it would receive around 160,000 doses every week next month

More than 31million Britons have received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine in the UK

More than 31million Britons have received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine in the UK

More than 31million Britons have received at least one dose of a Covid vaccine in the UK

WHAT DO WE KNOW ABOUT THE MODERNA COVID VACCINE? 

How effective is it against coronavirus?

The phase three results suggested vaccine 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.

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

The analysis was based on 196 cases, of which 185 cases of Covid-19 were observed in the placebo group versus 11 cases observed in the active vaccine group.

Moderna also released data relating to severe cases.

All 30 severe cases occurred in the placebo group and none in the group which had received the vaccine, known as mRNA-1273.

How many doses of Moderna does the UK have?

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

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?

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 included fatigue, myalgia (muscle pain), arthralgia (joint pain), headache, other pain and redness at the injection site.

But these were generally shortlived.

Is the Moderna vaccine effective against variants?

In late January, the company behind the vaccine said it was effective against both the strain first detected in south east England and the mutation which first emerged in South Africa.

Moderna said laboratory tests found no significant impact on antibodies against the UK variant relative to prior variants.

While there was a six-fold reduction in neutralising antibodies produced against the South African variant, the levels remained above those that are expected to be protective, Moderna said.

What stage is the Moderna rollout at in each of the four UK nations?

People in Wales will get first doses of the vaccine from Wednesday, at the West Wales General Hospital in Carmarthen.

The rollout will begin in England ‘as soon as possible this month’, a Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said.

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the first batch of Moderna vaccines had arrived in the country on Monday and will be delivered over the coming months.

It has not been confirmed when the rollout of Moderna will begin in Northern Ireland.

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Miss Taylor received the Moderna vaccine today at West Wales General Hospital in Carmarthen, after finding out last night she would be getting the jab.

Asked how she felt to be a trailblazer for millions, Miss Taylor said: ‘I feel thrilled and really happy and honoured, and I just hope it goes well for everybody.

‘It was great, the nurses were lovely and it didn’t hurt.’

Miss Taylor also works at a further education college in Llanelli, near Swansea.

Carers were bumped up the jabs priority list by scientists to reduce the risk of them accidentally transmitting the virus to a vulnerable person.

Some 5,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine were delivered to the local Hywel Dda University Health Board yesterday, with more expected to arrive in the coming weeks.

It is unclear how many were sent to Scotland, but ministers have revealed they are being distributed using the Barnett formula — which entitles the nation to around 11,000 doses from the first delivery. 

Separate leaked vaccine supply plans for Scotland revealed the nation was only expecting 4,000 doses in the week beginning April 4. 

The Health Secretary said the achievement was only possible thanks to the UK Government’s successful drive to secure vital vaccine supplies. 

‘The UK government has secured vaccines on behalf of the entire nation and the vaccination programme has shown our country working together at its best,’ Mr Hancock said.

‘Three out of every five people across the whole United Kingdom have received at least one dose, and today we start with the third approved vaccine. Wherever you live, when you get the call, get the jab.’

Welsh Health Minister Vaughan Gething said he was ‘delighted’ to see the roll-out bolstered further in Wales today.

‘Our vaccine delivery continues to be a source of pride and hope for the future,’ he added.

‘A third vaccine for use in Wales significantly adds to our defences in the face of Covid and will help to protect our most vulnerable.

‘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.’

Scientists found Moderna’s shot was 94 per cent effective at stopping Covid infections in clinical trials and prevented hospitalisations and deaths in all recipients.

But there are concerns it may be less effective against the South African variant and other strains of the virus, like other vaccines. 

A Columbia University study published last month found the shot triggered at least ten times fewer antibodies against the troublesome strain dubbed B.1.351 compared to the old virus. 

But scientists cautioned these results were based on a small sample size of blood from just 12 people, and excluded other key parts of the immune system that fight viruses. 

Moderna’s shot is based on mRNA technology, like Pfizer’s, which spark Covid-fighting antibodies by getting cells to manufacture spike proteins from the virus, which the immune system then learns to destroy.

Britain’s supplies were manufactured in Switzerland and put into vials in Spain before being shipped to the UK. 

Insiders told the Times that hundreds of thousands of doses were already in the UK.

But Department of Health bosses have repeatedly said their policy has always been to get jabs into people’s arms as soon as the shots arrive. 

They added the Moderna jab was set to be rolled out nationwide ‘as soon as possible this month’, but did not provide specific dates.

Britain’s vaccine roll-out may be thrown off course in the coming weeks, if health chiefs suspend AstraZeneca’s jab for younger adults. 

Medical regulators are currently probing whether the AstraZeneca vaccine – the key shot in the UK’s arsenal against the virus – is linked to cases of a rare blood clot called CVST, which can lead to a stroke.  

WHICH VACCINES ARE BRITAIN USING? AND HOW EFFECTIVE ARE THEY?

Pfizer-BioNTech

Approved: December 2, 2020

Doses dished out: 10.8million*

Doses ordered: 40million

Phase 3 trials data

  • Efficacy at blocking symptoms: 95%
  • Efficacy against severe illness: 100%

Real world data

  • Efficacy at stopping transmission: 66% 
  • Efficacy at blocking symptoms (one dose): Between 57 and 61% 
  • Efficacy against severe illness: 80%

How it works: mRNA vaccine – Genetic material from coronavirus is injected to trick the immune system into making ‘spike’ proteins and learning how to attack them.

Oxford-AstraZeneca

Approved: December 30, 2020

Doses dished out: 15.8million*

Doses ordered: 100million

Phase 3 trials data

  • Efficacy at blocking symptoms (one dose): 70% 
  • Efficacy against severe illness (one dose): 100%

Real world data

  • Efficacy at stopping transmission: 70% 
  • Efficacy at blocking symptoms: Between 60 and 73%
  • Efficacy against severe illness: 80% 

How it works: Adenovirus vaccine – To make the vaccine, the common cold virus is genetically modified to trigger it to make the Covid spike protein — which the virus uses to invade cells.

When the vaccine is administered the patient’s immune system attacks the spike protein by building antibodies, priming it to fight off Covid before it leads to an infection.

Moderna

Approved: January 8, 2021

Doses dished out: Zero

Doses ordered: 17million

Phase 3 trials data

  • Efficacy at blocking symptoms: 94.1% 
  • Efficacy against severe illness: 100%

Real world data

  • Efficacy at stopping transmission: Not known 
  • Efficacy at blocking symptoms: 90%** 
  • Efficacy against severe illness: Not known

How it works: mRNA vaccine – both Moderna’s and Pfizer and BioNTech’s vaccines work in the same way.

* the latest data goes up to March 21 

** data taken from a US study, joint with Pfizer. Other real world data comes from Public Health England in the UK 

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Suspending AstraZeneca over ‘blood clot’ fears for under-50s would slow Britain’s roll-out by up to 75%

Britain’s Covid vaccination drive could slow by at least 75 per cent if AstraZeneca’s jab is banned in people under the age of 50, according to leaked figures which could demolish the Government’s targets for inoculating young people.

Vaccine delivery figures from Scotland that were leaked earlier this year show that the British-made vaccine makes up three-quarters of the country’s jab supplies — but it is at the centre of growing doubts.

The UK’s medical regulator is considering suspending the AstraZeneca vaccine in younger Brits while it probes its link to deadly brain clots spotted in dozens of vaccinated people, with a decision expected as soon as today.

European medical regulators will announce the conclusions of their investigation at 3pm, with Germany having already temporarily banned its use for under-60s and France making the same controversial move for under-55s.

But the MHRA, which polices the safety of all vaccines in Britain, has yet to offer any updated guidance. It is said to be considering halting its use in under-50s, which could throw lockdown-easing plans into disarray.

Boris Johnson plans to lift lockdown fully by June 21 as part of the last stage of his roadmap out of restrictions, but this relies on jabbing the remaining 21million unvaccinated adults, the vast majority of whom are under 50, by the summer.

Officials have put the AstraZeneca jab at the heart of the country’s rollout and the leaked delivery schedule reveal the Government is expecting it to make up 75 per cent of its Covid vaccine supplies over the next two months.

The document, published on the Scottish Government’s website in January and quickly taken down, showed Britain was anticipating about 29.4m doses of AstraZeneca’s jab between April and the first week of June.

By comparison, officials expected just 8.5m of Pfizer’s vaccine in the next two months and 1m of the new Moderna jab, which is being rolled out for the first time in Wales today.

However, the UK inoculation programme could be bolstered if two other promising jabs under review are given approval by the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency in the coming weeks.

The chief scientist behind the US-developed Novavax vaccine, which Britain has secured 60million doses of, has said he expects it to be given the green light this month and rolled out in May. All of the Novavax supplies on order will be manufactured within the UK under a new Government deal announced last week, which could drastically speed up its distribution. 

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European medical regulators are also reviewing the jab’s safety and will announce the conclusion of their investigation at 3pm.

Germany has already temporarily banned the jab for under-60s and France made the same move for under-55s.

Dr Maggie Wearmouth, on the committee that decided the jabs priority list, today opened the door to ‘slowing things down’ until Britain’s home-grown shot is branded completely safe. 

She said: ‘The issue is about safety and public confidence. We don’t want to cover anything up that we feel that the public should be knowing. We’re not here to blindly follow targets or due dates. We will do what is necessary for the British public.’

But leaked figures suggest Britain’s Covid vaccination drive could slow by at least 75 per cent if AstraZeneca’s jab is banned in people under the age of 50. 

Oxford University last night halted trials of its Covid vaccine in children until the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) concludes its investigation. 

Scientists have stressed cases of CVST – the medical term for the complication – are extremely rare and have only been spotted in 30 recipients of AstraZeneca’s jab in Britain out of more than 18million doses delivered.

This equates to around one in 600,000 people. But experts say it may be more common in young women, who are known to be most at risk of the clots.

More than 31million Britons have already received their first dose, meaning No10 is currently on schedule to meet its target of offering a jab to all over-50s by mid-April.

Fellow Joint Committee of Vaccinations and Immunisations (JCVI) member Professor Adam Finn said the situation must be ‘addressed urgently’.

Speaking in a personal capacity, he told BBC Newsnight: ‘It’s clear that everyone is taking these cases enormously seriously, we do need to get to the bottom of this.

‘We are walking a tightrope here between the need for speed but also the need for clarity and scientific certainty about what’s going on and of course the public wants to know, so very important issues that need to be addressed urgently.’

Yesterday the Prime Minister, who has himself had the AstraZeneca vaccine, called on the nation to get their jab during a visit to the Anglo-Swedish plant in Macclesfield.

He said the ‘best thing’ people can do is ‘look at what the MHRA say’, adding: ‘Their advice to people is to keep going out there, get your jab, get your second jab.’

Sage adviser Professor Calum Semple echoed the PM’s call and urged people to continue accepting the AstraZeneca jab.

He told Channel 4 News: ‘For a middle-aged, slightly overweight man, such as myself, my risk of death is one in 13,000 – the risk of this rare clot, which might not even be associated with the vaccine, is probably one in a million.

‘So I’m still going to say it’s better to get the vaccine than not get the vaccine and we can pause and take time to carefully consider the value for children because they’re not at risk of death from Covid.’

He added: ‘If you’ve been called for the vaccine then you’re in an age group that is very likely to benefit from the vaccine. So the bottom line is if you’ve been called for the vaccine I would urge you to take the vaccine.’

Several European countries have limited the AstraZeneca jab to older people or even suspended its use entirely following clotting in a tiny amount of cases.

One of the European drug regulator’s senior officials yesterday claimed there is now a ‘clear’ link between the jab and CVST — a brain blockage that can lead to a stroke. 

The risk of dying from Covid-19 is significantly higher than the rate of CSVT blood clots, which haven't even been definitively linked to the vaccines (Based on fatality estimates from Cambridge University and CSVT occurrences in Germany)

The risk of dying from Covid-19 is significantly higher than the rate of CSVT blood clots, which haven't even been definitively linked to the vaccines (Based on fatality estimates from Cambridge University and CSVT occurrences in Germany)

The risk of dying from Covid-19 is significantly higher than the rate of CSVT blood clots, which haven’t even been definitively linked to the vaccines (Based on fatality estimates from Cambridge University and CSVT occurrences in Germany)

The roadmap out of lockdown in the four home nations: Where are they now, and what’s coming next? 

SCOTLAND

Latest lockdown easing – From April 5  barbers and hairdressers allowed to reopen alongside garden centres and homeware stores.

What’s coming next? – From April 26, beer gardens and gyms will be allowed to reopen. From May 17, cinemas will open their doors again and four people from two households can meet indoors. 

Infection/deaths – 219,986 total cases with 7,614 deaths.

ENGLAND

Latest lockdown easing – From March 29 up to six people from different households can meet outdoors and you can enjoy most outdoor sports. 

What’s coming next?  – Beer gardens and restaurants with outdoor dining can reopen. Non-essential retail venues can also reopen from April 12. May 17 will see easing of international travel restrictions as well as the return of indoor mixing. On June 21, all legal limits on social distancing will be axed. 

Infections/deaths: 3,812,188 total cases with 127,616 deaths.

WALES

Latest lockdown easing – From March 27 ‘Stay local’ rules scrapped and travel allowed within its borders. Six people from different households can meet indoors 

What’s coming next? – Travel between Wales and the rest of the UK will be allowed from April 12 and all non-essential shops will be allowed to open. From April 26, outdoor hospitality will be given the green light. Indoor mixing will be allowed from May 10.   

Infections/deaths: 209,627 total cases with 5,511 deaths.

N IRELAND

Latest lockdown easing  – From March 8 children in pre-school, nursery and primary one to primary three allowed back to the classroom. 

What’s coming next? –  Northern Ireland does not have a roadmap in the same way as other regions, but non-essential shops and travel is expected to come back soon.

Infections/deaths: 117,503 total cases with 2,116 deaths  

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Marco Cavaleri, head of vaccines at the European Medicines Agency (EMA), said that CVST — a brain blockage that can lead to a stroke — was occurring more often than expected in younger people.

Mr Cavaleri admitted that the body was still baffled about how the jab may trigger the rare complication.

Despite his comments, Mr Cavaleri’s agency has repeatedly insisted AstraZeneca’s jab is safe and the benefits outweigh any risks.

Last week it slapped down Germany for suspending its use in under-60s, arguing there was ‘no evidence’ to support age-based restrictions.

But at the same time, the watchdog paved the way for a potential U-turn, warning that the rate of the complication did appear to be slightly higher than expected in vaccinated under-60s.

Experts across the board say the evidence is now ‘shifting’ and that the jab is likely – in extremely rare cases – to cause the brain blockage. 

It comes after it was claimed yesterday that thousands of doses of AstraZeneca’s vaccine are being wasted in France following a ‘wave of panic’ triggered by its suspension.

And it was also claimed that EU officials are confident they will have enough doses to immunize the majority of their citizens by the end of June. 

Britain is aiming to have offered a first dose to all adults by the end of July.

The World Health Organization still maintains there is ‘no link for the moment’ between the Oxford AstraZeneca vaccine and blood clots.

Rogerio Pinto de Sa Gaspar, director of regulation and prequalification at the WHO, told a briefing today: ‘The appraisal that we have for the moment, and this is under consideration by the experts, is that the benefit-risk assessment for the vaccine is still largely positive.’

He added: ‘For the time being there is no evidence that the benefit-risk assessment for the vaccine needs to be changed and we know from the data coming from countries like the UK and others that the benefits are really important in terms of reduction of the mortality of populations that are being vaccinated.’

Scientists insist the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh any risks for elderly people — who are most at risk of hospitalisation or death if they catch the virus.

But they warn that the picture is ‘more complicated’ for young people. 

Experts estimate the risk of dying of Covid for 25 to 44-year-olds is 0.04 per cent – or one in 2,500.

For comparison, the rate of CVST cases seen in Germany — which originally banned the jab for over-60s over the same blood clot fears — is around one in 90,000.

It is not clear how many younger adults will suffer the blood clots naturally — but officials admit the risk is higher in women under the age of 50.

Officials are working round-the-clock to disentangle the statistical risk, analysing the background rate of CVST as well as the reported rate among people given AstraZeneca’s vaccine.  

How many doses has Britain ordered of each vaccine? 

Pfizer/BioNTech (approved) 40million doses

The breakthrough jab was the first in the world to be proven to successfully block severe Covid-19 last year and it gained approval in the UK on December 2. 

Type: It uses brand-new technology and is known as a messenger RNA (mRNA) vaccine. Conventional vaccines are produced using weakened forms of the virus, but mRNAs use only the virus’s genetic code to enters cells and tells them to create antigens, which make them look like the coronavirus.

Efficacy: Studies showed the two-dose vaccine could prevent severe illness in 95 per cent of people who were injected with it. 

How many? The Government has ordered 40million doses, enough to vaccinate 20million Brits, but only a handful of million Brits have received the jab so far. 

Oxford University/AstraZeneca (approved) — 100million doses  

Type: Oxford’s vaccine is made from a weakened version of a common cold virus known as adenovirus which is genetically engineered to carry the genetics needed to create ‘spike’ proteins that make cells look like the coronavirus.

Efficacy: It was shown to be about 70 per cent effective at blocking Covid-19. In early results this varied from 62 per cent in people who received the full two doses to 90 per cent in people who received 1.5, however scientists say the 62 per cent figure has improved since those results were published.

How many? The UK has ordered 100million doses.

Moderna (approved) — 17million doses ordered

Type: Moderna’s jab also uses mRNA technology and works in a similar way to the Pfizer one already being offered on the NHS.

Efficacy: It was found to have 95 per cent efficacy in clinical trials.

How many? Britain has ordered 17million doses but was late to the party because it didn’t want to bet on this as well as the Pfizer jab, because both are based on the same technology. The first doses are expected to arrive in March.  

Novavax (waiting approval) — 100million doses

Type: The Novavax vaccine works like other vaccines by teaching the immune system to make antibodies to the coronavirus spike protein. Researchers inserted a modified gene into a virus, called a baculovirus, and allowed it to infect insect cells. Spike proteins from these cells were then assembled into nanoparticles which, while they look like coronavirus, cannot replicate or cause Covid-19.

Efficacy: Novavax said the trials had shown its vaccine was 89.3 per cent effective at preventing Covid-19.

How many? Under a deal with the Government, 60million doses of the vaccine will be produced on Teesside for use in this country. 

Janssen/Johnson and Johnson (waiting approval) — 30million doses 

Type: The jab uses the same adenovirus technology as the Oxford University vaccine, making it just as easy to transport and store, but requires just a single injection to protect against Covid

Efficacy: Johnson and Johnson said it prevents, on average, 66 per cent of all coronavirus cases among people who get the jab.

The company also found it prevented severe symptoms in 85 per cent of people and no-one who got the jab died or needed hospital treatment from 28 days after being inoculated. 

The 66 per cent efficacy was a global average, with the jab preventing 72 per cent of cases in the US but only 57 per cent in South Africa, which is being devastated by a mutated variant that appears to be less susceptible to vaccines and immunity from older versions of the virus. It is promising, however, that the jab still worked in South Africa and still prevented hospitalisation.

How many? The UK has already struck a deal for 30million doses, with the option of ordering 22million more.  

Valneva (in trials) — 100million doses

Type: This jab is an ‘inactivated whole virus vaccine’ which uses a damaged version of the real coronavirus to stimulate the immune system.

Efficacy: Unknown – trials are still ongoing, 

How many? Britain has already ordered 100million doses and the first batches could be delivered by the end of 2021. 

GlaxoSmithKline/Sanofi Pasteur (in trials) — 60million doses  

Type: GSK’s vaccine is based on the existing technology used to produce Sanofi’s seasonal flu vaccine. Genetic material from the surface protein of the Covid virus is inserted into insect cells – the basis of Sanofi’s influenza product – and then injected to provoke an immune response in a human patient.

Efficacy: Unknown – trials are still ongoing.

How many?  The UK in July secured 60million doses of the prospective treatment, but the companies say they will likely not be ready before the end of 2021.

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