Millions of people could be vaccinated against coronavirus as the UK secures early access to 90 million doses of promising COVID-19 vaccine candidates.
Announced by Business Secretary Alok Sharma today (Monday 20 July), the government has agreed significant partnerships with leading pharmaceutical and vaccine companies BioNTech/Pfizer and Valneva that are developing innovative new vaccines to protect people against coronavirus. The government has also secured access to treatments containing COVID-19-neutralising antibodies from AstraZeneca to protect those who cannot receive vaccines such as cancer and immunocompromised patients.
As a result of these partnerships, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland could have access to enough doses to vaccinate and protect priority groups identified, such as frontline health and social care workers and those at increased health risk.
With today’s announcement, the government has now secured access to 3 different types of COVID-19 vaccines that are being developed here and around the world, giving the UK the most likely chance of getting access to a safe and effective vaccine at the quickest speed.
The government has also today launched the NHS COVID-19 vaccine research registry. This new website will enable people in the UK to play their part by volunteering for future vaccine studies.
The new online service will allow members of the public to register their interest and be contacted to participate in clinical studies. To enable large-scale vaccine studies to take place across the UK, the aim is to get 500,000 people signed up by October, which is considered vital in the fight against coronavirus.
Through its partnership with Valneva, which has a factory in Livingston, Scotland, the UK government is expected to contribute to UK clinical studies costs and is negotiating funding to expand Valneva’s Scottish facility. This increased manufacturing capacity could potentially supply up to 100 million vaccine doses to the UK and internationally. This will create high-skilled jobs in the local area and contribute significantly to the local economy.
The Livingston facility is in addition to the new Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre (VMIC) which is currently under construction in Oxfordshire thanks to a £93 million investment from the government. When completed in summer 2021, the facility will have flexible capacity to manufacture vaccine doses at scale.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock stated “A safe and effective vaccine is our best hope of defeating coronavirus and returning to life as normal. We have some of our best scientists and researchers working on this, but members of the public have a vital role to play too. So I urge everyone who can to back the national effort and sign up to the NHS COVID-19 vaccine research registry to help find a vaccine as soon as possible.”
Today’s announcement follows an existing global licensing agreement signed with AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford to research, develop and manufacture a COVID-19 vaccine for the UK public. AstraZeneca will work to produce 100 million doses for the UK in total.
As part of a wider £131 million investment by the government, support has also been given to Imperial College London to develop their vaccine candidate, which started human studies in June.