UK agrees deals for 90m doses of two potential coronavirus vaccines

The UK government has reached agreements it says will give British citizens early access to 90m doses of two more potential Covid-19 vaccines.

The vaccines are being developed by the US biotech company Novavax and the pharmaceutical business Janssen, which is owned by Johnson & Johnson and has its headquarters in Belgium.

Under the in-principle agreements, the UK has secured 60m doses of the Novavax vaccine, and is supporting a phase 3 clinical trial with the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

Another 30 million doses have been secured from Janssen and ministers have agreed in principle to co-fund a global clinical study of its vaccine.

The agreements, on top of earlier deals, mean the UK has access to six different Covid-19 vaccine candidates in development, across four different types, representing 340 million doses.

Despite the scale of the government’s potential stockpile, Kate Bingham, the chair of the government’s vaccines taskforce, warned it was still not known if any of the vaccines would be effective.

She told ITV’s Good Morning Britain on Friday: “The issue is we don’t know which if any of these vaccines may work, because there have been no vaccines against any human coronavirus.

“So what we’re doing is we’ve chosen six of the most promising vaccines across four different vaccine types and we’re hoping that one of those will work.

“It would be a nice position if they all work, but that’s not likely. The reality is that most will fail and we want to be sure that if any one is shown to be effective and safe that we have rights to it.”

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Bingham said she was reasonably confident of a vaccine being found that would reduce the severity of coronavirus symptoms and reduce deaths.

The government’s latest agreement follows on from 90m doses in the pipeline under deals with an alliance between the pharmaceutical giants BioNtech and Pfizer, as well as Valneva.

A further 100 million doses of vaccine could come from one being developed by Oxford University in partnership with AstraZeneca, while a deal has been struck for 60m doses of GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Sanofi Pasteur’s potential vaccine.

The deals cover four different classes: adenoviral vaccines, mRNA vaccines, inactivated whole virus vaccines, and protein-adjuvant vaccines.

The business secretary, Alok Sharma, said: “The government’s strategy to build a portfolio of promising vaccine candidates will ensure we have the best chance possible of finding one that works.

“Today’s agreements will not only benefit people in the UK but will ensure fair and equitable access of a vaccine around the world, potentially protecting hundreds of millions of lives.”

The Janssen vaccine, which is being made available on a not-for-profit basis, is expected to begin the next phase of clinical trials later this year and will look at whether two doses can provide long-term protection from coronavirus.

Meanwhile, Novavax plans to make some of its vaccine at Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies’ facilities in Billingham in Stockton-on-Tees, north-east England, once it is available.

The government said if the Novavax and Janssen vaccines proved safe and successful in clinical trials they could be delivered to the UK in mid-2021.

The vaccines would first be given to priority groups such as frontline health workers, those with serious diseases, older people and ethnic minorities.

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