Boris Johnson announces deal with GlaxoSmithKline for 60m Novavax vaccine doses

29 March 2021, 17:24 | Updated: 29 March 2021, 21:06

GSK will help with the manufacture of up to 60 million Novavax doses
GSK will help with the manufacture of up to 60 million Novavax doses. Picture: PA

By Patrick Grafton-Green

Boris Johnson has announced a deal with pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline on the manufacture of up to 60 million doses of the Novavax coronavirus vaccine.

The Prime Minister confirmed GSK's Barnard Castle facility in the North East of England would provide "fill and finish" capacity for the Government's vaccine supply.

Speaking at Monday's coronavirus press conference, he said the collaboration will be "giving us between 50 and 60 million doses of UK-made vaccine", subject to approval from regulators.

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It comes as lockdown restrictions in England were eased on Monday, with groups of six people or two households allowed to meet outdoors and outdoor sports returning.

England's chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said there was a "high likelihood" that transmission rates will increase as restrictions ease, but it could be "modest" if people follow social distancing guidelines.

He also stressed that health and care staff “who are looking after other people who are very vulnerable” had a “professional responsibility” to get a vaccine.

Mr Johnson struck a pessimistic note on international travel, ruling out lifting the ban on people visiting loved ones overseas.

"At the moment, as you know, it's still forbidden to travel," he said, adding that the Government would not be announcing more on this until April 5.

It comes as government data up to March 28 shows that 34,119,095 jabs have been given in the UK so far.

Of these, 30,444,829 were first doses, a rise of 293,542 on the previous day, and 3,674,266 were second doses, an increase of 146,785.

A further 23 people have died within 28 days of testing positive for Covid-19 as of Monday, bringing the UK total by that measure to 126,615.

The Government also said that, as of 9am on Monday, there had been a further 4,654 lab-confirmed cases.

Novavax

Unlike the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines, which need to be kept at ultra-low temperatures, the Novavax jab is stable for up to three months in a normal fridge, making it easier to distribute.

According to results of a phase three trial in the UK, announced in March, the jab offers 100% protection against severe disease, including all hospital admission and death.

It is 86% effective against the Kent variant, the company behind it said, and it is 96% effective in preventing cases caused by the original strain of the coronavirus.

The study in the UK enrolled more than 15,000 participants aged between 18 and 84.

A rolling review is under way by the MHRA (Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency) to assess the vaccine.

The protein antigen component of the vaccine is produced in the North East by Novavax manufacturing partner, Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies, at its site in Billingham, Stockton-on-Tees.