Millions of doses of a British-made vaccine will be bottled at a facility in Barnard Castle, Boris Johnson has announced.
The north eastern town became notorious in the early months of the pandemic as the destination of Johnson aide Dominic Cummings ‘ lockdown day trip.
Pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) will provide “fill and finish” manufacturing capacity at its Barnard Castle facility in the North East of England beginning as early as May.
Boris Johnson said the deal between GSK, Novavax and the UK Government vaccines taskforce will “further boost our vaccine rollout”.
He told a Downing Street briefing it would mean “between 50 and 60 million doses of UK made vaccine, subject to the right approvals from the MHRA.”
And he said there is no need for people to worry about a shortage of the Pfizer vaccine for a second dosage.
He said: “There isn’t any need to worry about shortage of Pfizer for the second dose as far as we can see at the moment.
“We’re going to continue to roll that out and supply that, and, as I said, April is going to be the second dose month.
“It’s very important that everybody gets their second dose.”
The “fill and finish” is the completion stage of vaccine manufacturing, preparing vials of the final vaccine and packaging them for distribution and use.
The GSK site at Barnard Castle is a specialised facility in GSK’s global manufacturing network which supports production of GSK pharmaceutical and vaccine products.
The UK Government has secured 60 million doses of the vaccine under an advance purchase agreement with Novavax.
The protein antigen component of NVX-CoV2373 is also produced in the North East of England by Novavax’s manufacturing partner, FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies, at their site in Billingham, Stockton-on-Tees.
Mr Johnson said: “I’m delighted by GSK’s investment, which shows the strength of UK manufacturing, and will further boost our vaccine rollout.
“The vaccines taskforce has worked hand in glove with business to successfully deliver vaccines to the whole of the UK and this agreement will continue to support our approach.
“We remain on track to offer a first jab to all over-50s by April 15, and all adults by the end of July, and I want to once again encourage everyone to come forward for a vaccine when you’re called.”
Roger Connor, president of GSK vaccines, said: “GSK is delighted to support Novavax and the UK vaccines taskforce with this manufacturing arrangement for the UK and our Barnard Castle facility is now undertaking the rapid preparation work required to manufacture up to 60 million doses of this vaccine.
“We have ensured that we can deliver these volumes without impacting supply of our other vital medicines and vaccines, and without disruption to the other Covid-19 collaborations GSK is engaged in globally.”
Earlier this month, the company behind the Novavax jab announced it is 86% effective against the Kent variant and 96% effective in preventing cases caused by the original strain of the coronavirus.
According to results of phase three trial in the UK, the jab offers 100% protection against severe disease, including all hospital admission and death.