After initial data showed a US-developed vaccine candidate showed a nearly 95% success rate in protecting against Covid-19, the UK government has moved to secure access to five million doses; enough to potentially vaccinate two and a half million people.
Announced by Business Secretary Alok Sharma, the promising vaccine would still have to meet the robust standards for safety and effectiveness and be approved by the medicines regulator.
But, should it be approved, it is expected the vaccine could be delivered to the UK and Europe as early as Spring 2021, with the potential for further doses to be procured by the UK Government later next year.
This would follow the first deliveries of two other promising vaccine candidates which, once final data from their phase 3 clinical trials has been published and they too receive regulatory approval, could be made available before the end of the year.
The agreement forms part of a wider government strategy to develop a diverse portfolio of vaccines, increasing the UK’s chances of securing access to a promising vaccine.
With the latest deal, the UK Government now has agreements in place with seven different developers and has secured 355 million vaccine doses.
One of the biggest strengths of this latest vaccine candidate is the lower safe storage temperatures required for it to remain effective – potentially helping support vaccination programmes in the community, where storage and cold chain infrastructure will be more limited.
Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: “Today’s announcement is on top of the 350 million doses the UK has already secured from a range of other vaccine developers, putting us towards the front of the international pack on a per capita basis.
“The speed at which scientists around the world have worked on a vaccine has been incredible, and it is thanks to their ingenuity that we are on the cusp of one of the biggest scientific breakthroughs in recent years.
“While this is exciting news, I urge the public to not be complacent – we are at a critical point in the pandemic and in order to save lives we must continue to follow guidance by maintaining social distancing, wearing face masks and washing our hands regularly.”
Health Secretary Matt Hancock added: “Today’s announcement is excellent news and an encouraging step forward in our fight against Covid-19.
“We have moved swiftly to secure 5 million doses of this hugely promising vaccine meaning we are even better placed to vaccinate everyone who will benefit should the rigorous safety standards be met.
“But we are not there yet. Until science can make us safe, we must remain vigilant and keep following the rules that we know can keep this virus under control.”