UK to buy 90 million doses of two more potential Covid-19 vaccines - and one million doses of AstraZeneca treatment
The government has announced agreements to purchase 90 million doses of two more potential Covid-19 vaccines, and has struck a deal with AstraZeneca for one million doses of a treatment for those who cannot receive one.
Business secretary Alok Sharma confirmed today (Monday) that the UK government has secured early access to 30 million doses of a vaccine under development by BioNTech and Pfizer, and 60 million doses of an alternative being created by Valneva.
The AstraZeneca treatment, which will feature Covid-19 neutralising antibodies, is designed to protect those who cannot receive vaccines such as cancer and immunocompromised patients.
All of these are still undergoing testing.
The deals are in addition to the 100 million doses of the adenoviral vaccine being developed by Oxford University and AstraZeneca, which has shown promise in ongoing human trials.
A new NHS website was also announced to make it easier for potential volunteers to register their interest in life-saving clinical studies. The aim is to sign up 500,000 by October.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: “The hunt to find a vaccine is a truly global endeavour and we are doing everything we can to ensure the British public get access to a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine as soon as possible.
“This new partnership with some of the world’s foremost pharmaceutical and vaccine companies will ensure the UK has the best chance possible of securing a vaccine that protects those most at risk.
“The public can also play their part in vaccine research through the new NHS vaccine research register. By signing up and participating in important clinical studies, together we can speed up the search for a vaccine and end the pandemic sooner.”
The partnerships announced by the government cover:
30 million doses of BioNTech/Pfizer’s mRNA vaccine. This is the first binding agreement signed with any government;
60 millions doses of Valneva’s inactivated whole virus vaccines. This is an in-principle agreement, and if the vaccine is proven to be safe, effective and suitable, the UK has the option to acquire a further 40 million doses.
One million doses, in principle, of an AstraZeneca treatment containing Covid-19 neutralising antibodies to protect those who cannot receive vaccines such as cancer and immunocompromised patients.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: “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.
“Every volunteer will be doing their bit towards finding a vaccine for Covid-19 that will have the potential to save millions of lives around the world and bring this pandemic to an end.”
The NHS Covid-19 vaccine research registry, enabling people to sign up for studies, can be found at https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/coronavirus-covid-19/research/coronavirus-vaccine-research/.
Professor Chris Whitty, chief medical officer and National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) head, said: “Thanks to Covid-19 patients’ willingness to take part in treatment studies, we’ve been able to identify treatments that work and ones that don’t, which has improved patient care worldwide.
“Now that there are several promising vaccines on the horizon, we need to call again on the generosity of the public to help find out which potential vaccines are the most effective.
“Using a new NHS website developed in partnership between the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) and NHS Digital, people across the UK can register their interest to be approached to join a vaccine study. Please go to the website and consider volunteering.”
Clinical studies with hundreds of thousands of volunteers will be necessary to help researchers understand the effectiveness of each vaccine candidate and will speed up delivery.
The government is also working with health science company ZOE to collaborae around vaccine studies and help volunteers hear about how to sign up to the NHS registry.
Chair of the vaccine taskforce Kate Bingham said: “The Vaccine Taskforce is investing in a diverse portfolio of vaccine candidates to maximise the chances of finding a vaccine quickly that meets the UK’s rigorous regulatory and safety standards.
“ The fact that we have so many promising candidates already shows the unprecedented pace at which we are moving. But I urge against being complacent or over optimistic.
“The fact remains we may never get a vaccine and if we do get one, we have to be prepared that it may not be a vaccine which prevents getting the virus, but rather one that reduces symptoms.”
As part of a wider £131million investment, the government is also supporting Imperial College London in developing its vaccine candidate. Human studies began in June.
And it has made the biggest investment of any country - £250million - to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to support equitable and affordable access to new coronavirus vaccines and treatments around the world.
Once a vaccine is ready, the government’s Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advises priority vaccination of frontline health and social care workers and those at increased risk of serious disease and death from Covid-19 infection stratified according to age and risk factors.
More by this authorPaul Brackley
This website and its associated newspaper are members of the Independent Press Standards Organisation (IPSO)