The government has signed deals for 90 million doses of promising Covid-19 vaccines, in addition to the 100 million doses of a vaccine being developed by Oxford Universiy.
The latest deal is for vaccines being developed by an alliance between the pharmaceutical giants BioNtech and Pfizer as well as the firm Valneva.
Kate Bingham, chairwoman of the UK Vaccine Taskforce, said the goal of the taskforce was ‘to find vaccines for the UK, but also to ensure that any successful vaccine is distributed across the globe, so that anybody who is at risk of infection is vaccinated’.
She told Sky News: ‘We’re not pursuing a strategy of vaccine nationalism.
‘We are recognising that this is a global pandemic and we need to ensure that the globe – and all those who need it – are vaccinated.’
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The government is aiming to build a portfolio of potential vaccines, alongside effective treatments for coronavirus.
The latest announcement is for 30 million doses of a vaccine from BioNTech/Pfizer, 60 million doses from Valneva, with an option to acquire a further 40 million doses if needed.
If the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine is shown to work, regulatory review could be sought as early as October 2020, with up to 100 million doses potentially manufactured by the end of the year.
The government has also signed a deal with AstraZeneca for one million doses in principle of a treatment containing Covid-19 neutralising antibodies.
This could protect those who cannot receive vaccines, such as people with cancer or whose immune system is severely compromised.
A new NHS Covid-19 vaccine research registry has also been established with the aim of recruiting 500,000 volunteers by October to test new vaccines and treatments.
Bingham said: ‘The Vaccine Taskforce is investing in a diverse portfolio of vaccine candidates to maximise the chances of finding a vaccine quickly that meets the UK’s rigorous regulatory and safety standards.
‘The fact that we have so many promising candidates already shows the unprecedented pace at which we are moving.
‘But I urge against being complacent or over-optimistic.
‘The fact remains we may never get a vaccine and if we do get one, we have to be prepared that it may not be a vaccine which prevents getting the virus, but rather one that reduces symptoms.’
Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: ‘The hunt to find a vaccine is a truly global endeavour and we are doing everything we can to ensure the British public get access to a safe and effective coronavirus vaccine as soon as possible.
‘This new partnership with some of the world’s foremost pharmaceutical and vaccine companies will ensure the UK has the best chance possible of securing a vaccine that protects those most at risk.
‘The public can also play their part in vaccine research through the new NHS vaccine research register.
‘By signing up and participating in important clinical studies, together we can speed up the search for a vaccine and end the pandemic sooner.’