The UK government has signed a deal for 90m more coronavirus vaccine doses from US biotech company Novavax and Belgian pharma giant Janssen.
That means the UK has now agreed deals for a stockpile of 340m vaccine doses, and six different types of coronavirus vaccines.
The government did not reveal how much it has agreed to pay, though the deals now mean everyone in the UK could receive five doses of the vaccines, three more than deemed necessary – if they work.
However, most vaccine trials do not succeed, and so the UK is hoping that one or some of the trials proves effective in preventing coronavirus.
Kate Bingham, chair of the UK government Vaccine Taskforce, told Sky News today: “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.
“It is also encouraging that Novavax’s recent clinical data shows their vaccine triggers an immune response greater than that in patients who have recovered from the disease.”
However, she admitted to the BBC that “we don’t know if any of these vaccine formats that we’ve acquired will actually work”. “There are no licensed vaccines for any human coronavirus.”
She called it a priority for the UK to ensure it has enough vaccines for people most vulnerable to the effects of coronavirus.
So far the UK has signed deals for 100m doses of the government-backed Oxford University and Astrazeneca-developed vaccine. It has also signed deals for 60m doses of a Glaxosmithkline/Sanofi-developed vaccine and 60m doses of a Novavax vaccine.
Alongside the 30m doses of Janssen’s vaccine, the UK has signed 30m doses of BioNTech/Pfizer vaccines and 60m doses of Valneva’s vaccine.
Both the Oxford University and BioNTech/Pfizer vaccines are now in advanced stages of development, with researchers currently conducting phase three clinical trials among tens of thousands of volunteers.
The government has said if the Janssen and Novavax trials succeed, the vaccines could be distributed in mid-2021.
Business secretary Alok Sharma said: “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.
“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.”
The European Commission also said today it had reached a deal with British pharmaceutical firm Astrazeneca for the purchase of at least 300m doses of its potential Covid-19 vaccine.
The EU’s executive arm, which is negotiating on behalf of the 27 EU states, said the deal also included an option to purchase 100 million more doses should the vaccine prove safe and effective.
Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, said: “The European Commission’s intense negotiations continue to achieve results.
“Today’s agreement is the first cornerstone in implementing the European Commission’s Vaccines Strategy. This strategy will enable us to provide future vaccines to Europeans, as well as our partners elsewhere in the world.”