: Moderna COVID-19 vaccine rollout begins in England, giving under 30s alternative to AstraZeneca

United States

The Moderna MRNA, -1.08% 0A45, -2.63% COVID-19 vaccine will start to be used in England from Tuesday, providing an alternative to the AstraZeneca AZN, -1.04% AZN, -0.98% vaccine for people aged under 30.

The U.K.’s vaccine advisory committee, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), last week recommended that 18 to 29-year-olds be given a different vaccine, following reports of extremely rare blood clots in a small number of recipients of the AstraZeneca shot.

Both the European and U.K. drug regulators have said that the benefits of the AstraZeneca vaccine outweigh the risks for the “vast majority” of people, and recommended no age restrictions on the shot.

Shares in AstraZeneca were trading 0.78% lower in London on Tuesday morning.

The rollout of the Moderna vaccine will help accelerate the U.K.’s immunization program, which is already ahead of schedule after reaching its target on Monday to offer a first COVID-19 vaccine to all over-50s by April 15.

Biotech Moderna has said it will make at least 700 million vaccine doses in 2021, including from plants in Europe and the U.S. The U.K. has secured 17 million doses of the vaccine.

Read: Europe’s vaccine woes continue as Spain and Italy halt use of AstraZeneca shot for under-60s

Nearly 40 million vaccines have now been administered to more than 32 million people in the U.K., the government said in a statement late on Monday. The two main vaccines on offer have been the one made by U.K.-Swedish drug company AstraZeneca with the University of Oxford, and the one jointly developed by German biotech BioNTech BNTX, -0.51% and U.S. drug company Pfizer PFE, +1.01%.

This includes more than seven million second doses — with a record 475,230 given on Saturday — placing the government on track to offer a first vaccine to all adults by July 31.

The JCVI is expected to soon publish its final advice on how the government should vaccinate those aged under 50, paving the way for the next phase of the vaccination program, which is expected to begin this week, the government said.

Read: U.K. set to partially reopen as lockdown restrictions ease

The news will provide a significant boost to Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s plan to ease the country out of its third lockdown by opening up parts of the economy. On Monday, shops, hairdressers, and outdoor hospitality reopened in England, and foreign holidays could resume from May 17, depending on the success of the vaccination program.

Read: CDC offers travel advice to vaccinated Americans — but stops short of saying it’s OK to get on a plane

Last week, eight airline bosses — including the heads of IAG IAG, +0.97% -owned British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Ryanair RYAAY, -3.12% and easyJet EZJ, +2.05% — wrote to Johnson, calling for travel between the U.S. and the U.K. to start on May 17. “There can be no economic recovery without aviation and we are confident we have the tools to enable a safe and meaningful restart to air travel in May,” they wrote in a letter published in The Sun newspaper.

When the ban on nonessential foreign travel is lifted, the government has said it would be replaced by a risk-based, three-tier traffic light system for categorizing countries for international travel to and from England.

Read: Brits bent on spending spree as pubs, shops, gyms and hairdressers reopen in England