Monday 29 March 2021 6:37 pm

UK secures deal to bottle 60m Novavax vaccine doses in the North East

The UK government has reached a deal with pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline to bottle 50 to 60m doses of the Novavax vaccine in the North East.

Boris Johnson said at today’s press conference that the government was “building up our long-term manufcaturing abilities” with the new deal.

Read more: UK drawing up plans for Covid-19 certificates for office workers

The Novavax vaccines will be bottled at GlaxoSmithKline’s factory at Barnard Castle.

The jab is yet to get approval from the UK’s Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency, however it is already being bottled.

Johnson said: “I’ve already told you Novavax, a significant new weapon in our fight against Covid will be made at Fujifilm in the North East and I can today announce the vaccine taskforce has reached an agreement with GlaxoSmithKline to finish and bottle this precious fluid also in the North East, giving us between 50 and 60m doses of UK-made doses subject to approval from the MHRA.”

When asked when the Novavax vaccines will be delivered, chief scientific adviser Sir Patrick Vallance said: “That’s an operational question and I can’t answer that for you, but what I will say is that Novavax hasn’t been through the regulatory process yet so it would need to do that as well before anyone could be sure when that will come.”

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According to results of a phase three trial in the UK, announced in March, the Novavax jab offers 100 per cent protection against severe disease, including all hospital admission and death.

It is 86 per cent effective against the Kent variant, the company behind it said, and it is also 96 per cent effective in preventing cases caused by the original strain of the coronavirus.

The study in the UK enrolled more than 15,000 participants aged between 18 and 84, including 27 per cent over the age of 65.

In participants 65 years of age and older, 10 cases of Covid-19 were observed, with 90 per cent of those cases occurring in the placebo group.

More than 30m people in the UK have now received their first Covid vaccine, with all over-50s set to be jabbed by 15 April.

However, the UK is set to see its vaccine supplies drop next month as second doses are given out and with the delay of some shipments from India.

The EU is also threatening to block shipments of AstraZeneca vaccines coming to the UK from the Netherlands and doses of the Moderna vaccine have still not arrived on our shores.

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden said yesterday that units of the Moderna jab, which was the third to be approved by the MHRA, will arrive in the UK toward the end of April.

It comes as a Downing Street source today said  that the government believes it will not be able “to identify any surplus [vaccines] until later this year” and that it is “dependent on supply chain reliability ad whether new vaccines are needed for variants or a booster”.

This suggests that no excess vaccines will be given out to foreign countries before every UK adult has received at least one dose of the Covid vaccine, which the government hopes will be 31 July at the latest.

Read more: UK will not give away vaccines to other countries until all Britons are vaccinated

Speaking to journalists today, the Prime Minister’s official spokesperson said: “Our first priority is to ensure the safety of the British public.

“We don’t have a surplus of vaccines but we will consider how any surplus doses are allocated if and when they become available.”