The European Union’s medicines agency has approved Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine candidate, giving the bloc a second vaccine to use in its battle against the pandemic, - The Independent reports.
The approval recommendation by the European Medicines Agency’s (EMA) human medicines committee comes amid strong criticism of the slow pace at which the vaccine rollout programme is being carried out across the region of some 450 million people.
The EMA approved a Covid-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and BioNTech before Christmas, and began rolling it out to citizens of the 27-nation bloc shortly after. Both vaccines require giving people two jabs.
Emer Cooke, executive director of EMA, said: “This vaccine provides us with another tool to overcome the current emergency.
“It is a testament to the efforts and commitment of all involved that we have this second positive vaccine recommendation just short of a year since the pandemic was declared by WHO."
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen welcomed news of the approval of the Modern vaccine, and said in a tweet: “Now we are working at full speed to approve it and make it available in the EU.”
The Moderna vaccine is easier to handle compared to the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine since it doesn’t need to be stored at ultra-freezing temperatures of -70C, and has already received approval in the US, Canada and Israel.
German health minister Jens Spahn said he expected the Moderna vaccine to begin rolling out to EU countries by next week. He was among several EU leaders who had previously been critical of the EMA’s slow pace, which resulted in the agency moving up the timing of its decision on the Pfizer vaccine by a week.
Mr Spahn told reporters in Berlin that Germany would receive two million Moderna doses in the first quarter and 50 million in all of 2021.
“The problem is the shortage of production capacity with global demand,” he said.
Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz tweeted that the approval of the Moderna jab is “another important step in the fight against the pandemic. This means we have more vaccine available in the EU and can fight the pandemic faster.”
Moderna said on Monday it was increasing its estimate for global vaccine production this year from 500 to 600 million doses, adding that it is "continuing to invest and add staff to build up to potentially one billion doses for 2021”.
Mr Cooke stressed that EU authorities “will closely monitor data on the safety and effectiveness of the vaccine to ensure ongoing protection of the EU public”.
“Our work will always be guided by the scientific evidence and our commitment to safeguard the health of EU citizens,” he added.
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