Nick Abbot 10pm - 1am
Deal reached for 50 million doses of vaccines that target new variants
5 February 2021, 13:52 | Updated: 5 February 2021, 15:30
The UK Government has reached a deal for 50 million doses of coronavirus vaccines that will target new variants.
The deal with German biopharmaceutical firm CureVac will allow the UK to "rapidly develop vaccines against new strains" of Covid-19, Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said.
The doses are in addition to the 407 million the Government has already secured from other companies.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said although “the vaccines we are deploying now are safe and effective, with the latest evidence suggesting they provide protection against new strains", the UK needs to be prepared for "all eventualities".
The Government will also establish an expert advisory group to identify new coronavirus variants which the UK could need to vaccinate against.
NEW – we’ve entered into a partnership with @CureVacRNA to rapidly develop vaccines against new strains— Kwasi Kwarteng (@KwasiKwarteng) February 5, 2021
We must be prepared for all eventualities so we've placed an order for 50m doses, if required
I can also confirm the agreement will allow large-scale manufacturing in the UK
The deal includes an initial order for 50 million doses to be delivered later this year if they are required and subject to approval.
The vaccines will be modifications of an existing CureVac jab which is currently undergoing phase three clinical trials.
Varieties of the vaccine will be based on messenger RNA technology, meaning a jab can be reformulated against variants more quickly than more traditional vaccine technologies.
These methods are similar to those used to update flu jabs each year.
Mr Hancock said: "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."
Mr 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 roll out new variations of existing vaccines if we need to, while also building up Britain's vaccine manufacturing base in the process."
Deputy Chief Medical Officer Professor Jonathan Van-Tam added: “While the vaccines currently being deployed in the UK appear to work well against the Covid-19 variants currently dominant in the UK, the virus continues to mutate and it is likely that our vaccines will have to adapt to continue to offer the best possible protection.
“Being able to create these new vaccines at speed will allow our scientists to keep ahead of the virus as they do every year with the influenza vaccine.”