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Moderna Shares Gain After Europe Approves Coronavirus Vaccine

The European Medicines Agency gave the first of two approvals needed for Moderna's newly-developed coronavirus vaccine Wednesday as infections around the region continue to surge.

Moderna Inc.  (MRNA) - Get Moderna, Inc. Report shares extended gains Wednesday after the European officials granted conditional approval to market its newly-developed coronavirus vaccine.

The European Medicines Agency said the biotech's mRNA 1273 vaccine is "another tool to overcome the current emergency" following the approval of a similar messenger-RNA vaccine developed by Pfizer  (PFE) - Get Pfizer Inc. Report and BioNTech  (BNTX) - Get BioNTech SE Report. The decision will need to be confirmed by the European Commission -- the executive arm of the European Union -- but nonetheless paves the way for its region-wide distribution in the coming days. EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides said that decision would come later today.

The approval comes as many European nations extend or expand previously-announced lockdowns amid a renewed winter spike in infections and the slower-than-expected rollout of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine.

Shares in the group were further boosted by comments from U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who told lawmakers during a Parliamentary debate Wednesday that the new variant of COVID-19, first identified by British researchers late last month, "does not appear to be vaccine resistant" 

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Moderna shares were marked 2.7% higher in early trading Wednesday to change hands at $112.30 each, a move that leaves the stock with a six-month gain of around 90%.

Johns Hopkins University reported 229,000 new coronavirus infections in the United States yesterday, a 13.3% increase from last week's levels that takes the overall total past 21.1 million. The seven-day average, meanwhile is sitting at an all-time high of 219,000.

The government's vaccine roll-out, however, has failed to match expectations of a post-Christmas spike in infections, with just over 3 million people receiving jabs, compared to a year-end 2020 target of 20 million set by Operation Warp Speed.