A new partnership between the UK Government and vaccine manufacturer CureVac has been established to rapidly develop new vaccines in response to new Covid-19 variants if needed.
Both the Pfizer/BioNTech and Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines are safe and effective and appear to work well against the Covid-19 variants currently dominant in the UK.
The new agreement will utilise UK expertise on genomics and virus sequencing to allow new varieties of vaccines based on messenger RNA technology to be developed quickly against new strains of Covid-19 if they are needed.
The Government is establishing an expert advisory group to identify the variants that the UK could need vaccines against.
Through the agreement announced today, the UK has placed an initial order for 50 million doses of new vaccines to be delivered later this year if they are required.
This is in addition to the broader portfolio of 407 million doses already secured by the UK Government to date.
Almost all vaccines developed through this partnership against new Covid-19 strains will be variants of an existing jab by CureVac which is currently undergoing Phase 3 clinical trials, meaning it should be possible to accelerate clinical trials ahead of submission to the regulator for approval. The UK will use its partnership with CureVac to boost the UK’s capacity to develop and manufacture variant vaccines in the UK, strengthening our domestic capabilities.
The process is similar to the method used to update flu vaccines each year – updated and accelerated using the newly-proven mRNA technology that can be reformulated against variants more quickly than older and more traditional vaccine technologies. mRNA technology is already being used in the Pfizer-BioNTech and Moderna vaccines approved for use in the UK.
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said:
Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said:
Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Professor Jonathan Van-Tam said:
Vaccines Minister Nadhim Zahawi said:
Interim Chair of the Vaccines Taskforce Clive Dix said:
The UK Government’s new expert advisory group say they will look at both current and potential future virus variants. This will involve using the world-leading UK Science Surveillance networks alongside genomic sequencing technologies and clinical trial capabilities to allow the rapid identification of and response to virus variants.
To date, the UK Government has invested over £300 million into manufacturing a successful vaccine.
The UK was the first country in the world to procure, authorise and then deploy both the Oxford/AstraZeneca and Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines.
Picture by Pippa Fowles / No 10 Downing Street. Photo is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic License.