The EU’s medicines regulator on Wednesday recommended authorising a second coronavirus vaccine developed by biotechnology company Moderna.
The European Commission now needs to approve the vaccine to make it available to member states.
Many hope that with multiple vaccines authorised in the EU, those who are vulnerable to the disease will be vaccinated more quickly.
Vaccinations began in the EU on December 27 after the bloc authorised the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.
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The company had enrolled 30,000 participants in its phase three trials and announced in November that the vaccine was more than 94% effective.
“This vaccine provides us with another tool to overcome the current emergency,” said Emer Cooke, Executive Director of the EU agency in a statement.
“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.”
The first study participants received the vaccine in May 2020, and the vaccine requires two doses administered 28 days apart.
The Moderna vaccine is easier to handle than the Pfizer vaccine because it doesn’t need to be stored at ultra-frozen temperatures.
There were no major safety concerns with the vaccine but common side effects included sore arms, fever, fatigue and muscle aches.
The US first authorised use of the Moderna vaccine in December. The EU has ordered up to 160 million doses of the vaccine.
In a statement, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said there would be “more than enough” doses to vaccinate all Europeans.
She said: “With the Moderna vaccine, the second one now authorised in the EU, we will have a further 160 million doses. And more vaccines will come.
“Europe has secured up to two billion doses of potential COVID-19 vaccines. We’ll have more than enough safe and effective vaccines for protecting all Europeans.”
Adding to this, Stella Kyriakides, the commissioner for health and food safety, said the approval of the new vaccine came down to being “all in this together and united”.
She said: “This is why we have negotiated the broadest vaccine portfolio in the world for all our Member States.
“Today we are authorising a second safe and effective vaccine from Moderna, which together with BioNTech-Pfizer, will ensure that 460 million doses will be rolled out with increasing speed in the EU, and more will come.”
EU criticised for slow vaccination rollout
This second coronavirus vaccine could be authorised as the EU is criticised for its slow vaccine rollout.
The bloc approved the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on December 21 but vaccinations did not begin in Europe until the end of the month.
Many countries have been criticised for their slow vaccination strategies including France which vaccinated a mere 516 people in the first week and the Netherlands, that did not start vaccinating citizens until Wednesday.
Even Germany, where more than 300,000 people have been vaccinated, has also faced criticism nationally over its rollout.
And with limited doses available, some countries are now weighing delaying second doses in an effort to vaccinate more people.
Many experts have said that vaccinating a huge proportion of the population is the only way to end the pandemic.