The UK has scrambled to buy US firm’s Moderna jab after early data showed it was almost 95% effective in protecting against Covid-19.
Britain chose not to buy the vaccine because it did not believe the company would do a deal “with anyone outside the US”, and had concerns about a lack of dependable European supply chain, it is reported.
But shortly after the EU entered into negotiations with Moderna while the UK shunned the bloc’s vaccine scheme, which was using joint purchasing power to get the vaccine quicker and cheaper.
The European Commission has had discussions about purchasing 80 million doses, with the potential to purchase double that figure. It led to Moderna launching operations in Switzerland and Spain to help with the supply chain.
Jul 2020: UK officially opts out of EU Covid-19 vaccine scheme.
Aug 2020: EU expands vaccine scheme with a 5th company, Moderna.
Oct 2020: EU fast-tracks Moderna approval.
Nov 2020: Moderna trial shows 95% effectivess from vaccine that doesn't need special storage.
— Edwin Hayward 🦄 🗡 (@uk_domain_names) November 16, 2020
Shortly before a press conference announcing its results of trials, the UK government paid for five million doses – which are unlikely to be ready until spring 2021 “at the earliest”. But it cited commercial sensitivity over questions about the price it paid.
The European Commission is hoping to secure a deal for below $25 (£19) a dose in the coming days.
Commission president Ursula von der Leyen announced it will also complete a deal for up to 405 million doses of another mRNA vaccine from German biotech company CureVac.
Health secretary Matt Hancock told a Downing Street press conference “great advances in medical science are coming to the rescue” of countries battling the coronavirus pandemic, but admitted the UK had only secured five million doses of the latest jab.
“While there is much uncertainty, we can see the candle of hope and we must do all that we can to nurture its flame,” he said.
“But we’re not there yet. Until the science can make us safe we must remain vigilant and keep following the rules that we know can keep this virus under control.”
ITV News political editor Robert Peston tweeted: “It is important for the Vaccine Taskforce’s Kate Bingham and Matt Hancock to explain why they did not buy Moderna vaccine and whether that was a mistake”