Moderna vaccine to bolster NI’s supplies ‘within weeks’

Fresh supplies of a third type of coronavirus vaccine, made by the American pharmaceutical company Moderna, are expected in Northern Ireland in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, 24th March 2021, 7:38 pm
Nicole Picard receives a dose of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine from pharmacist Nabil Chikh as pharmacies begin administering COVID-19 vaccinations Monday, March 22, 2021, in Montreal. (Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press via AP)

That is according to Health Minister Robin Swann who highlighted the benefits of the UK’s “buying power” when it comes to the global supply of sought-after vaccines.

Mr Swann said the Moderna jabs would “add another string to our bow”.

Currently, Northern Ireland’s vaccination programme has is using two types of vaccine to protect people from coronavirus — one manufactured by the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical company Astra Zeneca and another manufactured by the US company Pfizer.

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Recently, the UK supply of Astra Zeneca vaccine was dealt a blow following problems with doses manufactured in India.

And there have been tensions with the EU over supplies of the Astra Zeneca vaccine since January after the company decided to prioritise fulfilling its UK order on the basis that it had been signed first, following setbacks at a manufacturing facility in Belgium.

Asked about possible supply issues at a Stormont press conference yesterday, Mr Swann was confident the roll-out here remains on course despite the recent issues.

“We’ve always kept a watchful eye on supplies, no matter where they are coming from,” he said.

“One of our small setbacks was that we lost that additional five million [doses] that was due to come from India last week as well, but it is programmed to come into next month.”

He continued: “It’s not just about supplies coming in from Europe. We’re now looking at a worldwide vaccine supply programme.

“Being part of the UK buying power, where we actually pre-bought seven different vaccines I think stands Northern Ireland in good stead for future supplies.”

On the Moderna vaccine, Mr Swann said: “We should be, hopefully, within the next number of weeks actually seeing Moderna - a third vaccine - coming into our vaccination programme which gives us an additional string to our bow as well that allows that additional vaccine to be supplied into our centres.”

In total, the UK has ordered in excess of 400 million doses of coronavirus vaccine from seven companies.

In addition to the Astra Zeneca, Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, there are orders for 60 million doses of a vaccine made by US company Novavax, 100m doses from French-headquartered company Valneva, and 30 million doses from the world’s largest health company Johnson & Johnson. Another 60 million doses from GlaxoSmithKline have also been ordered, but these vaccines have yet to show effectiveness in older people.