The UK Government has entered a new partnership aimed at further bolstering the country’s ability to respond to and tackle new future variants of Covid-19.
Working with a vaccine manufacturer, the UK Government will be able to rapidly develop new vaccines in response to Covid-19 variants, should the need to do so arise.
At present, both the Pfizer and Oxford vaccines have been proven safe and effective, and appear to work well against the variant strains of the virus present in the UK.
It is not anticipated that any of the currently-identified variants should significantly hamper vaccine effectiveness, with the newly-struck partnership representing a proactive rather than reactionary course of action by the UK Government.
Under the new agreement, UK genomics and virus sequencing knowledge will be utilised to allow new varieties of vaccine, based on messenger-RNA technology, to be quickly developed against new Covid-19 strains if needed.
It has also lodged an initial order of 50 million doses of new vaccines to be delivered by later this year, should they be required.
Almost all vaccines developed through the newly-agreed partnership to tackle new Covid-19 strains would be variants of the manufacturer’s main vaccine, which is undergoing Phase 3 trials presently.
The partnership will also allow the UK Government to use the manufacturer’s domestic facilities to boost the country’s capacity to develop and manufacture variant vaccines in the UK, strengthening domestic capabilities and safeguarding against delays or supply problems.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said: “The UK’s vaccine programme has been a national success story so far, and we are determined to make sure we’re as prepared as we can be in the long-term if new variants of Covid-19 emerge.
“This fantastic new partnership means we can work to swiftly tweak and rollout new variations of existing vaccines if we need to, while also building up Britain’s vaccine manufacturing base in the process.”
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock added: “The vaccines we are deploying now are safe and effective, with the latest evidence suggesting they provide protection against new strains of Covid-19.
“But we must be prepared for all eventualities and bolster onshore UK manufacturing capacity to develop vaccines to combat new variants of the disease, taking advantage of our world-leading genomics expertise.
“This will help ensure we can continue to provide everyone with a high level of protection against the virus and save lives.”