UK strikes 90 million dose deal for COVID-19 vaccine candidates

The deal includes 60 million doses of a vaccine being developed by US biotech company Novavax and 30 million doses of one in the works by Belgian pharmaceutical company Janssen

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The UK government on Friday confirmed new in-principle agreements to secure 90 million more doses of two potential coronavirus vaccine candidates.

The deal includes 60 million doses of a vaccine being developed by US biotech company Novavax and 30 million doses of one in the works by Belgian pharmaceutical company Janssen.

If the vaccines are found safe and successful in clinical trials, both could be delivered to the UK in mid-2021 and would be given first to priority groups such as frontline health and social care workers, ethnic minorities, adults with serious diseases, and the elderly.

"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," said UK Business Secretary Alok Sharma.

"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. While we are doing everything we can to ensure the British people get access to a successful vaccine as soon as possible, nobody is safe until we are all safe so global cooperation is absolutely critical if we are to defeat this virus once and for all," he said.

With the latest deals, the UK says it has now secured access to six different candidates across four different vaccine types, including the University of Oxford's vaccine being developed with AstraZeneca, as well as agreements with the BioNTech/Pfizer alliance, Valneva and GSK/Sanofi Pasteur.

The Department for Business, Energy, and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) said that ministers have also agreed in principle to co-fund a "ground-breaking" global clinical study of the Janssen vaccine.

The next phase of clinical trials is expected to begin later this year to look at whether providing two doses of their vaccine candidate to participants provides long-term protection against coronavirus.

"The sooner we start the two-dose study of the Janssen vaccine the sooner we will know whether the vaccine can provide durable, long term protection against COVID-19 infection. The vaccine is based on technology used in its recently approved preventative Ebola vaccine designed to induce long-term immunity in individuals over one years' old," said Kate Bingham, Chair of the UK government's Vaccines Taskforce.

"We are delighted to partner with Janssen that has demonstrated their long-term commitment to global health and vaccines by providing their COVID-19 vaccine across the world at no profit," she said.

Supported by the British government, Novavax will conduct a Phase 3 clinical trial of the vaccine working with National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) to access their clinical network and expertise.

Novavax also plans to manufacture some of the vaccine using FUJIFILM Diosynth Biotechnologies's facilities at Billingham in Stockton-on-Tees, north-east England. This will ensure that, once available, the vaccine can be supplied to the British public as soon as possible, BEIS said.

In addition, a deal with AstraZeneca will provide the UK with access to treatments containing COVID-19 neutralising antibodies to protect those who cannot receive vaccines, such as cancer and immuno compromised patients.

The UK said it continued to work with the vaccine alliance GAVI, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), the World Health Organisation and a group of other countries to help buy vaccines as well as to ensure equitable distribution of vaccines to low-income countries.

Last month, the government launched the National Health Service (NHS) COVID-19 vaccine research registry to enable people across the UK to sign up for information about participating in COVID-19 vaccine clinical trials.

Aiming to get 500,000 people signed up by the end of October, this would provide scientists and regulators the assurances they need that vaccines secured are safe and effective for use.

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