“The regulator will do a very detailed and thorough review and will decide in good time,” he said. “I would hope it would be in the spring, possibly end of April.”
Professor Heath, a consultant in paediatric infectious diseases at St George’s Hospital in Tooting, believes the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, which has been using a fast-track “rolling review” process, now has nearly all the data it needs to make an approval decision.
It will be manufactured at the Fujifilm plant in Billingham in the North-East.
“The Barnard Castle site are very fired up to do it,” Roger Connor, head of GSK’s vaccine division, told Sky News. “We’ve already started… so we all want to get manufacturing and producing the Novavax vaccine from May this year.”
Meanwhile, another leading scientist warned that Britain must “move with all speed” to the next generation of vaccines because of the pace that Covid-19 is evolving into more dangerous mutations.
“We can see the virus is really settling into a new genomic sequence,” said Imperial College’s Professor Peter Openshaw, a member of the Nervtag advisory group on new threats. “It’s finding its way in the new human host, and it is evolving.”
- Cabinet minister Kwasi Kwarteng rejected calls to speed up easing lockdown, warning that “rushing” to do so could lead to another spike in cases. He told LBC Radio: “If we were to rush and reopen and for whatever reason there was an uptick in coronavirus, we would be blamed for having rushed to reopen, so what we are trying to do now is to have a steady and sure progress to reopening.”
- Boris Johnson tweeted a call for world leaders to sign a global accord on ways to protect states against future pandemics. “No government can address the threat of pandemics alone — we must come together,” he said. The Prime Minister co-signed an article with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
- Sir Lenny Henry and actors Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton were among high-profile figures pleading with black Britons to get vaccinated, following official data that showed those of African and Caribbean heritage were much less likely to accept the life-saving jab.
- With cases surging around Europe, Italian officials signalled a five-day quarantine for travellers from all European Union countries. Sweden’s health agency said it had asked its government to postpone a planned easing of restrictions. French doctors said hospitals were overwhelmed by cases.
Professor Heath also stated that once the nine top priority groups had received a second dose, he believed Britain should look to “share” some of its vaccine supplies.
“As soon as we have done the priority groups then I think we are in a position to start sharing with other countries, by which I mean of course that the priority groups should be fully protected, which would be two doses of vaccine,” he said.
“Once that is done, then I think we are in a great position and we can of course continue then to roll out vaccine to a larger part of the population…but we are also then in a position to be distributing vaccine elsewhere to other countries, to other populations.”
The nine priority groups include people aged 50 and over, care home residents and staff, frontline health and social care workers, clinically extremely vulnerable people, and individuals aged 16 years and over with underlying health conditions which put them at higher risk of serious disease and mortality. Mr Kwarteng said that the Government’s priority was vaccinating the UK population.
Professor Heath also urged people in London and other parts of the country to get the jab to protect themselves, their families and the wider community. Speaking on Sky News, he explained that some Covid vaccines may be “better suited” for certain age groups or for use as booster jabs.
“It may be shown for example that certain vaccines are more appropriate for certain groups, for the elderly, for those with underlying health problems and so on,” he said.
“We are, for example, contemplating vaccinating adolescents and children, we are contemplating and indeed vaccinating pregnant women and it may be that studies will show that certain vaccines are perhaps better suited to different groups.”
Asked on Sky News about hesitancy in the black community, he said: “I think there’s possibly a degree of misinformation, people share things on social media. I think there’s a wariness sometimes. At the beginning of the vaccine process there was a lot more scepticism amongst certain communities here in the UK than there is today. I think we’ve made great strides actually.”