CAPE TOWN – The European Medicines Agency on Wednesday approved the Covid-19 vaccine developed by US pharmaceutical company Moderna, making it the second vaccine to be given the green light by Europe’s medicines regulator.
“This vaccine provides us with another tool to overcome the current emergency,” said Emer Cooke, the EMA’s executive director.
“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 World Health Organization.”
The EMA said trials of the vaccine showed a 94.1% reduction in the number of symptomatic Covid-19 cases among people who received it.
It is expected that approval of the vaccine by the European Commission will follow shortly.
EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen welcomed the EMA approval in a tweet in which she added: “Now we are working at full speed to approve it & make it available in the EU.”
According to the Dutch national drugs authority, the vaccine is expected to be effective against the new strain of Covid-19 detected in Britain.
Ireland plans to vaccinate a further 10,000 a week with the new vaccine, Deputy Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said on Wednesday.
The country has been inoculating residents with the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine and had planned to reach 135,000 by the end of February, but the regulatory approval of the Moderna vaccine has seen it up its target.
The news comes two days after British Prime Minister Boris Johnson placed England in its toughest lockdown since March. The restrictions, which include the closure of schools and confining people to their homes except for one hour of daily exercise, are due to remain in place for the next six weeks.
The decision was announced after England recorded a record number of new daily infections on Monday with 58,784 cases.
The United Kingdom’s other nations have imposed similar lockdowns in response to a surge in new cases.
England and large parts of continental Europe have struggled to bring vaccination programmes up to speed. Johnson on Monday said if “everything goes well”, the government hopes to have given the first of the requisite two jabs of the vaccine to all citizens in the top four priority categories by mid-February.
Britian’s efforts have been boosted by the approval there of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine last week.
In France, the health ministry has come under fire for only having carried out 7,000 vaccinations so far, and President Emmanuel Macron has reportedly expressed his frustration at the slow pace.