Matt Hancock has revealed the UK has secured five million doses of the Moderna Covid-19 vaccine, hours after it emerged it may offer very high levels of protection against Coronavirus.
At a Downing Street press conference, Mr Hancock said preliminary results for the vaccine were “excellent news”.
Amid “much uncertainty, we can see the candle of hope and we must do all that we can to nurture its flame”, he said.
The firm has claimed that so far results suggest the vaccine has a 94.5% effectiveness against the disease.
The UK government has pre-ordered millions of doses of a number of potential vaccines still undergoing testing.
However, the Moderna vaccine was not one of them.
Mr Hancock said ministers had now secured an “initial agreement” for five million doses, which would treat two and a half million people.
He defended the apparently small number, saying the Moderna vaccine would not be available until spring and the UK had orders for others which could be in use earlier.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma said he was “delighted” ministers had struck a deal for five million doses of the Moderna vaccine candidate.
Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, the deputy chief medical officer, described the Moderna announcement, just a week after Pfizer also announced positive results for its candidate vaccine, as “absolutely brilliant news… it’s the second penalty that’s gone into the net”.
Mr Hancock also used the conference to sounds a note of cautious optimism.
He said: “Across diagnostics and vaccines, great advances in medical science are coming to the rescue. While there is much uncertainty, we can see the candle of hope and we must do all that we can to nurture its flame.
“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.”
Dr Soumya Swaminathan, chief scientist at the World Health Organisation, described the Moderna vaccine trial results as “quite encouraging” but said it would be at least two months before it would be submitted for approval to the relevant regulatory agencies.