Government in deal to acquire 90 million coronavirus vaccine doses
The UK government has signed deals to acquire 90 million doses of promising coronavirus vaccines that are currently in development.
Some of the vaccines are being researched and developed in a joint effort by pharmaceutical companies BioNtech and Pfizer while the remaining ones are being provided by Valneva.
The new supply will come on top of 100 million doses of the University of Oxford vaccine being developed by AstraZeneca.
The new vaccine deal includes an agreement with AstraZeneca to purchase other treatments made from neutralising antibodies, which can disable coronavirus. These are intended for individuals who cannot receive a vaccine, such as those who are undergoing cancer treatment or people with weakened immune systems.
There are already more than 20 vaccines undergoing clinical trials, and it remains uncertain which of the experimental vaccines will work best, if at all.
No vaccine has yet been proven to protect against infection at the time of writing, although some have triggered an immune response.
The new deal has seen the UK government guarantee access to three vaccines all developed in different ways.
The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine is understood to be made from a genetically engineered virus, while the 30 million doses of the BioNtech/Pfizer vaccine the government has acquired are known to inject parts of the genetic code of coronavirus.
Meanwhile, the Valneva vaccine - of which the government has ordered 60 million doses - uses an inactive version of the coronavirus.
Kate Bingham, who chairs the government’s Vaccine Taskforce, said: "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."
Vulnerable individuals and health and social care workers will be first in line to be given the vaccine should an effective one be developed.
The government is planning at least eight coronavirus vaccine trials in the UK and hopes to have around half a million people take part.
The UK’s chief medical officer Professor Chris Whitty said: "Now that there are several promising vaccines on the horizon, we need to call again on the generosity of the public to help find out which potential vaccines are the most effective."
Nevertheless, vaccination on a wider scale is not expected to take place until 2021, even in the event that a successful vaccine is developed by the end of this year.
Education secretary Gavin Williamson told the BBC that developing a vaccine was "an incredibly long process” which is currently being done “at breakneck speed” and that a vaccine should not be expected until “after winter”.