UK government secures early access to 90 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines

The government has entered partnerships with Pfizer and Valneva to secure doses of several promising COVID-19 vaccines and secured COVID-19 neutralising antibody treatments from AstraZeneca.

artoon of business people shaking hands in frnt of Union Jack flag

The UK government has entered partnerships with BioNtech/Pfizer and Valneva who are developing vaccines to protect against COVID-19. It has also secured early access to treatments containing COVID-19 neutralising antibodies from AstraZeneca, in order to treat those unable to receive vaccines, such as the immunocompromised or elderly.

As a result of these partnerships, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland could have access to enough doses to vaccinate and protect certain priority groups, such as frontline health and social care workers and those at increased health risk.

The government has secured access to three different types of COVID-19 vaccines that are being developed in the UK and abroad, which the UK Business Secretary Alok Sharma said should give the UK the most likely chance of getting access to a safe and effective vaccine at the quickest speed.

To ensure a COVID-19 vaccine is available as soon as possible, the Government has also launched the NHS Covid-19 vaccine research registry. This is a website through which people can register their interest in participating in future vaccine trials. The new online service will also allow volunteers to be contacted to participate in clinical studies. The aim is to get 500,000 people signed up by October.

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 vaccine research and be part of history.”

The government is expected to contribute to UK clinical trial costs through its partnership with Valneva and is negotiating funding to expand the latter’s manufacturing facility in Livingston, Scotland. The proposed increase in manufacturing capacity could potentially supply up to 100 million vaccine doses to the UK and internationally, while also providing high skilled jobs and contributing to the local economy.

The Livingston facility is in addition to the new Vaccines Manufacturing and Innovation Centre (VMIC) which is currently under construction in Oxfordshire thanks to a £93 million investment from the Government. When completed in summer 2021, the facility will have flexible capacity to manufacture vaccine doses at scale.

Chair of the UK’s 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.”

Today’s announcement follows an existing global licensing agreement signed with AstraZeneca and the University of Oxford to research, develop and manufacture a COVID-19 vaccine for the UK public through which AstraZeneca will produce 100 million doses for the UK in total.

A further £131 million investment by the Government went to support the development of Imperial College London’s vaccine candidate, which started human studies in June.

The UK Government has also committed £250 million to the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI) to support equitable and affordable access to new coronavirus vaccines and treatments around the world.