Monday 20 July 2020 8:31 am

UK secures supply for potential German coronavirus vaccine

The UK has secured a supply of 30m doses of a potential coronavirus vaccine being developed by German firm BioNTech and US drugmaker Pfizer over the next two years, making it the first country to sign up for the drug.

BioNTech and Pfizer said they have the capacity to produce 100m doses by the end of 2020, and more than 1.3bn by the end of 2021. 

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“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,” said business minister Alok Sharma. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. 

The potential German-American coronavirus vaccine is one of 23 being tested in clinical trials, according to the World Health Organization, and will soon be tested on 30,000 volunteers.

It comes as the government also announced that Britain has secured a deal in principle for 60m doses of a potential vaccine with French pharmaceuticals giant Valneva, with an option of 40m more doses if proven to be safe and effective.

The deals follow a deal with Astrazeneca to produce 100m doses of a vaccine being developed with Oxford University in the UK, which has previously been hailed as the UK’s best chance of securing a vaccine. 

The much-anticipated full findings from the Phase I clinical trial of the Astrazeneca drug are set to be published in The Lancet medical journal later today.

Last month, France, Germany, Italy and the Netherlands signed a deal to secure for up to 400m doses of the Astrazeneca vaccine, if successful. The drugmaker says it has the capacity to manufacture 2bn doses of its Covid-19 vaccine. 

It comes as the UK security minister James Brokenshire over the weekend said Britain is “more than 95 per cent” sure that Russian state-sponsored hackers targeted UK, US and Canadian organisations involved in developing a coronavirus vaccine.

Brokenshire said: “I think the Russian government is being so hypocritical claiming to support responsible behaviour in cyberspace while secretly conducting cyber-attacks like this and others.”

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Brokenshire’s comments came after the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) — part of GCHQ — said UK drug companies and research groups were being targeted by the Kremlin’s intelligence services.

Although the security minister would not confirm if the attacks had been successful in stealing medical information, he added that the group had accessed “IT systems and they’re scanning them for vulnerabilities”.