Which Covid vaccines has the UK government ordered?
The UK passed a significant milestone yesterday after health secretary Matt Hancock announced that more than 10m people across the country have now received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine.
The news buoyed hopes of a return to normality by the summer, with Britain now firmly ahead of targets to vaccinate the most vulnerable members of the public by mid-February.
So far, the UK vaccine rollout has leant entirely on both the Astrazeneca/Oxford University and Pfizer/Biontech jabs, which have both received emergency use authorisation.
But with further vaccines set to be added to Britain’s roster in the coming months, including one made by US biotech firm Moderna, ministers will soon be able to wind the cogs even faster.
As ministers keep repeating, vaccine supply is currently the “rate limiting factor” in the UK’s vaccine rollout.
But thanks to Hancock’s penchant for pandemic-related horror movies, the UK has more than enough stock to see the government’s vaccination programme chugging along over the spring and into the summer.
Britain currently has orders placed for 407m doses of vaccines produced by seven different companies. This will likely see a major rejig if scientists find that further jabs are required for emerging Covid mutations, but pharmaceutical firms are still in the development stages of producing “next generation” vaccines for new coronavirus strains.
Here are all the vaccines that the government has placed orders for so far:
The UK has ordered 100m doses of the Covid vaccine produced by British-Swedish firm Astrazeneca and the University of Oxford — by far the largest vaccine order on Britain’s shopping list.
Eighty-two-year-old Brian Pinker last month became the first person to receive the vaccine out of a medical trial, with a further 30m doses earmarked for rollout in the next few months.
But Astrazeneca has rather unfairly been pulled through the dirt in recent weeks, becoming something of a scapegoat in an EU-wide tussle over vaccine shortages within the bloc.
European Commission officials last week demanded that Astrazeneca divert some of its UK supply to the EU, after the firm said it would only be able to deliver around 40 per cent of agreed doses to the bloc following manufacturing issues.
But despite ensuing panic this side of the Channel, Astrazeneca boss Pascal Soriot insisted Britain remained the Cambridge-based firm’s top priority, having become the first country in the world to green-light the jab.
Whatever happens in upcoming vaccine disputes, it looks likely Astrazeneca will continue to play the protagonist in the UK’s immunisation programme.
The drug, which is around 95 per cent effective in protecting against Covid, also reduced transmission of the virus by around 67 per cent.
Plus — it doesn’t need to be kept at subzero temperatures, meaning it is easily transportable around the country and storable for long durations.
The Pfizer vaccine was the jab that kicked off the global vaccine race. Ninety-year-old Margaret Keenan in December became the first person to receive a Covid jab outside a medical trial, receiving her first injection at University Hospital in Coventry.
The UK has ordered 40m doses of the Belgium-produced vaccine, which needs to be stored at -70C, with things running smoothly until last week.
But the same EU dispute that saw Astrazeneca’s name tossed around also threatened to limit the UK’s supply of the Pfizer vaccine.
The European Commission on Friday made the unprecedented move to override the Brexit agreement and introduce export controls on vaccines — principally, the Pfizer vaccine — after Astrazeneca refused to bow to its demands.
EC chief Ursula von Der Leyen swiftly U-turned on the move, which would have seen the Irish Protocol ripped up just 29 days after being signed and the potential return to a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
Von der Leyen has since promised that future EU controls on vaccines will not disrupt any of the 40m doses of the Pfizer jab to Britain.
However, the tussle has left a bitter taste, with the health secretary subsequently heaping praise on other vaccines that the UK has ordered.
But for now, the Pfizer vaccine is a mainstay in the UK’s vaccine rollout, with more than 95 per cent efficacy in protecting against the virus.
The UK’s medicines regulatory body last month authorised the Moderna vaccine for emergency use, making it the third jab to be get the green light among the UK’s vaccine portfolio.
The government had initially ordered just 7m doses of the US-made jab, after hedging its bets on vaccines produced closer to home. But Hancock swiftly ordered an additional 10m doses after it was granted approval in Britain, taking the UK’s total order of the Moderna vaccine to 17m.
The news came as a major boost to the UK’s vaccination timeline, but the Moderna jab will likely not become available in Britain until March. The drug is initially being manufactured in the US, with facilities in Europe expected to take several months to get off their feet.
The drug proved 94 per cent effective in protecting against coronavirus in clinical trials.
The British government has ordered 60m doses of a vaccine being produced by US biotech firm Novavax.
The drug is currently undergoing phase three clinical trials involving 10,000 people aged between 18 and 84 across the UK, in partnership with the UK Government’s Vaccines Taskforce.
It is currently being assessed by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and could be approved for use in the UK within weeks.
The UK can expect 100m doses of Valneva’s coronavirus vaccine if proven successful, after the government secured an additional 40m doses of the jab earlier this week.
The UK government said it has invested a “multi-million sum” in French-headquarterd Valneva’s manufacturing facility in West Lothian in Scotland, which began manufacturing vaccine doses last week.
Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said the Scottish site will be a “vaccine production powerhouse”, which will reduced the potential for export hiccups once approved and support “top quality local jobs”.
Valneva’s drug is an inactivated vaccine, meaning it contains dead Covid-19 particles that prompt the body to produce antibodies.
It is currently still in phase I/II clinical trials and will still need to meet the necessary safety and effectiveness standards and receive regulatory approval from the MHRA.
If approved, Valenva’s drug will likely be rolled out at the end of the year.
Results published last week from phase three trials of Jansen’s Covid vaccine showed it is 66 per cent effective at preventing moderate and severe coronavirus.
The jab, produced by Jansen — a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, the world’s largest healthcare company — is the first single-dose Covid vaccine so far.
Britain has pre-ordered 30m doses of the jab, though it has not yet been approved by the UK’s medicines regulatory board.
The efficacy rate is lower than those vaccines produced by Pfizer/Biontech, Moderna and Astrazeneca, but the data is not directly comparable because the Janssen trial excluded mild cases of the disease.
Trial data from more than 44,000 participants showed the Janssen jab was 85 per cent effective at preventing severe Covid, and offered “complete protection” from hospitalisations and death after 28 days.
The vaccine also showed around 57 per cent protection against the new South African Covid mutation.
The government has ordered 60m doses of a vaccine being produced by Glaxosmithkline (GSK) and its French partner Sanofi.
But development of the drug has been put on ice until at least the end of 2021, after trials revealed it failed to produce a strong immune response in older people.
The drug companies hoped to have regulatory approval for the candidate vaccine in the first half of this year, but interim results from phase I/II trials showed an “insufficient” response in over-50s — the age group most vulnerable to severe Covid-19.
The companies will now return to the drawing board and launch phase II trials of a reformulated version in February, with the aim of deliver approved shots in the last quarter of 2021.