A THIRD Covid vaccine is now seeking approval from regulators, as Scotland’s Health Secretary said the country “will be ready” to begin inoculating as soon as supplies arrive.

Moderna has filed for emergency regulatory approval in the US and Europe so it can be recommended for widespread use.

Clinical trials of 30,000 volunteers, including elderly participants, indicate the jag is 94 per cent effective at protecting people from becoming ill from Covid-19 infections, but it is up to regulators to decide whether the evidence of safety and efficacy is robust.

 The UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) is already evaluating Covid vaccine applications from Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca, and Moderna says it hopes to be granted approval for use in the UK soon.

It is up to the UK’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) to draw up priority guidelines, but care home residents, care home staff and frontline NHS workers are expected to be first in line, alongside over-80s.

Asked when rollout might begin in Scotland, Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said “at the moment any dates are speculative”.

She added: “What we are doing is planning to be ready. As soon as the first vaccine is approved and the supplies arrive, we will be ready to start vaccinating according to what the JCVI says are the first group of people who should be vaccinated.”

It comes after Oxford University and AstraZeneca faced criticism over key omissions in its data, which showed 70% effectiveness overall but up to 90% among 2,741 participants who received one-and-a-half doses by mistake – instead of the full two doses.

It has since emerged that no-one in this sub-group was aged over 55, compared to the two-dose regimen which was trialled on more 21,000 people, including older adults, with 62% effectiveness.

Professor Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group, said the 90% finding met the “necessary statistical evidence as required by regulators”.

Meanwhile, Nicola Sturgeon warned that levels of coronavirus in Renfrewshire remain “quite stubborn”.

Speaking ahead of today’s weekly tiers review, the First Minister said: “Countrywide we are seeing cases fall. In the stubbornly high Central Belt areas we are a bit more hopeful now. We are starting to see a decline in these areas. Renfrewshire perhaps is the area that still gives us the most cause for thinking it’s quite stubborn.”

Public Health Scotland data currently show there were 215 cases per 100,000 population in Renfrewshire in the seven days to November 27 – nearly twice the Scotland average and above Glasgow’s 168.8 rate.

Nationally, prevalence has fallen by 23% since November 13 and by 40% in Glasgow, but by just 12% in Renfrewshire. 

It comes as Ms Sturgeon confirmed that mass testing using the rapid lateral flow test will launch in Johnstone in Renfrewshire from Thursday in a bid to detect asymptomatic cases.

Lateral flow is less accurate than the PCR test, but can deliver results in as little as 30 minutes. Anyone with a positive lateral flow test will be retested using PCR, said Ms Sturgeon.

Mass testing pilots have already launched in other areas of high prevalence, including Dalmarnock and Pollokshields in Glasgow, and Stewarton and Girvan in Ayrshire.

Ms Sturgeon urged people living in these communities to get tested.

“You give yourself a chance of finding out if you have the virus when you don’t yet have symptoms, but you are also helping that collective effort to break the chains of transmission.”

The Scottish Government will extend eligibility for £500 self-isolation support grants from Monday to include parents of children required to self-isolate, and people who are not currently on universal credit but who would qualify.

The First Minister said self-isolation could be “particularly tough on people on low incomes” who cannot work from home or rely on statutory sick pay.

“We don’t want anyone to feel that they are having to choose between self-isolating and feeding themselves and their family.”